October 01, 2007

Legislative Update: 2007 End-of-Session

Source: NYSUT Division of Legislation

First posted: June 26, 2007

The 2007 legislative session ended Friday, June 22. Following is a list of NYSUT's program bills and other legislative accomplishments.

On this page:


K-12

853 Funding Methodology

  • S.5672, Saland - PASSED
  • A.8337, Nolan - PASSED
  • Delivered to the Governor 8/16
  • Vetoed 8/28. Memo 156.

This legislation provides a more flexible and reliable funding mechanism for Special Act and 853 schools by creating a three-year tuition rate setting methodology. Furthermore, this legislation would allow schools under this methodology to maintain a fund balance of up to two percent of that year's allowable and reimbursable costs, to the extent that tuition revenues exceed allowable and reimbursable costs.

Special Act and 853 schools are charged with providing an education for New York 's most challenged student population. Special Act and 853 schools provide these students services that are unavailable through the traditional public school system. Currently these schools are not funded with the same financial support that public schools receive and they have faced years with no increases in their tuition reimbursements. Special Act and 853 schools need adequate financial capacity and flexibility to better manage their schools and some of these schools need to be able to address the directives of the federal No Child Left Behind Act as well as the high Regents' standards.

IDEA Compliance Reauthorization

  • A.9273, Nolan - PASSED
  • S.6361, Saland - PASSED
  • Delivered to the Governor 7/6
  • SIGNED 7/18 - CHAPTER 378.

This legislation implements the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004. The bill would allow parents and school districts to agree (or consent) in writing to the excusal of a required member of the IEP team from attending a meeting to discuss a preschool or school age student's individualized education program. School districts would be required to provide written input of an excused member whose curriculum or related service is being discussed five calendar days prior to the IEP meeting date. Parents would also retain the right to request and/or agree to excuse a member of the special education committee when an IEP team member is unable to attend the meeting because of an emergency or unavoidable scheduling conflict. The proposed legislation would also allow the parent and school district to agree to change a student's IEP after the annual review without holding an IEP team meeting. Parents would be afforded the right to consult with the child's teacher or related service provider to discuss the proposed changes, and to receive a copy of the amended IEP without needing to request it.

A teacher or other professional member of the school district would be allowed to request that the school district initiate a special education evaluation, if such teacher or member suspects that the student has a disability. Current law allows professional members of the school district to make direct referrals to the Committee on Special Education for a special education evaluation.

The term school nurse services would be added to the definition of related services.

Consistent with IDEA, the proposed legislation would establish specific responsibilities for the school district in which a nonpublic school is located in relation to students with disabilities placed in nonpublic schools by their parents. Current law affords these responsibilities to the school district in which the child resides.

Burden of Proof

  • S.5972-a, Lanza - PASSED
  • A.5396-a, Nolan - PASSED
  • Delivered to the Governor 8/3
  • SIGNED 8/15. Chapter 583.

This legislation places the burden of proof in an impartial hearing about services to children with disabilities on the school district or state agency responsible for providing education to students with disabilities and not on the parent or guardian of the student. Only if the parent or guardian of the student is seeking unilateral tuition reimbursement for a unilateral parental placement will the parent or guardian bear the burden of proof on the appropriateness of such placement.

Teacher Certification for Permanent Residents

  • S-5931, Saland - PASSED
  • A-8975, Young - PASSED
  • Delivered to the Governor 8/3
  • SIGNED 8/15. Chapter 612.

This legislation extends for another five years, chapter 658 of the laws of 2002, which enabled a legal resident whose immigration status is that of a lawful permanent resident of the United States and who would otherwise be eligible and qualified to serve as a teacher, to apply for and to receive permanent certification as a teacher.


SCHOOL-RELATED PROFESSIONALS

School-Related Professionals Recognition Day

  • A.274-B, Clark - PASSED
  • S.911-B, DeFrancisco - PASSED
  • Delivered to the Governor 7/6
  • SIGNED 7/18 - CHAPTER 278.

The 2007 legislative session can be considered an historic event for NYSUT's School-Related Professionals as the New York State SRP Recognition Day bill (A.274-B/S.911-B) passed both the senate and assembly. The action on this bill is significant for two reasons: First, up until this year the only legislative recognition SRPs got for their hard and, often thankless, work was a legislative resolution from both houses. Second, the bill has neither gotten out of the Assembly Governmental Operations committee nor had a senate sponsor. The bill will be delivered to the Governor and we remain hopeful that he will sign it into law.


HIGHER EDUCATION

Commission on Health Care Facilities in the 21st Century (Berger Commission) - SUNY Upstate Medical University

The Commission on Health Care Facilities in the 21st Century (Berger Commission) was charged with making recommendations to right-size New York State 's health care delivery system. Among the numerous recommendations made by the Commission which became law on January 1, 2007, was the recommendation to merge SUNY Upstate Medical University and Crouse Hospital in Syracuse into a single unified governance structure under the control of an entity other than SUNY. If implemented, this ill-conceived recommendation to change the governance structure of Upstate Medical University into a likely private entity would have threatened the public employee status of those UUP members working at the institution. Moreover, if the hospital was restructured and become privatized, uni que, life-saving critical health care services not readily available at other hospitals would have been jeopardized, first-rate medical care to all citizens of New York, regardless of their ability to pay, would have been compromised, and graduate medical education and cutting-edge research would have been negatively impacted.

NYSUT was instrumental in working with the Governor, the Legislature and the Department of Health to stop the privatization of SUNY Upstate Medical University and to negotiate an affiliation agreement between both hospitals in Syracuse . The affiliation agreement meets the Berger Commission's requirements regarding hospital capacity while maintaining each institution's own separate governance structure.

Optional Retirement Program (ORP) Pension Equity (also in Retirement)

  • S.5208-A, Padavan - PASSED
  • A.8447, Abbate - PASSED
  • Delivered to the Governor 8/3
  • SIGNED 8/15. Chapter 617.

This legislation provides for a three-year phase-in of the employer pick-up of the three percent member contributions to the Optional Retirement Program (ORP) for members with ten or more years of membership in such program.

At the time of the ORP's creation, the Legislature recognized that, while the ORP's structure is different from that of ERS or TRS, it was the Legislature's expressed intent to ensure the equitable treatment of all public retirement systems. This intent is expressed in statute and in state pension task force analysis. Currently, members of the Employees' Retirement System (ERS) and the Teachers' Retirement System (TRS) do not contribute to the retirement system after the attainment of ten years of membership or credited service.

Health Insurance Moratorium for State & Municipal Retired Public Employees

  • S.6030, Farley - PASSED
  • A.8829, Weinstein - PASSED
  • Delivered to the Governor 8/3
  • UPDATE 8/15 - Veto Memo 119

This legislation will include our state higher education members in the health insurance moratorium, which extends provisions (Ch. 22 of 2007) prohibiting the diminution of health insurance benefits provided to such retired employees unless there is a corresponding diminution of benefits or contributions for the current active group of employees.

Health insurance coverage is a critical issue for retirees, who often face tremendous health care costs at a time of severely diminished income. Continuation of health insurance after retirement is provided for some retirees by statute and for some others by union contract. This legislation protects health insurance coverage for all public sector retirees. It provides that a public employer may not unilaterally reduce benefit coverage or employer contributions unless making a parallel reduction for active employees.

Increased aid for independent higher ed institutions

  • S.6243 Rules
  • A.9194 Glick
  • Delivered to the Governor 7/20
  • Signed 8/1 - CHAPTER 503

In the 2007-08 State Budget, the Legislature established a High Needs Nursing Aid program to provide additional State aid to independent institutions of higher learning that confer associate or bachelor degrees in nursing. This bill would make a technical amendment to ensure that independent institutions of higher learning are able to receive both BUNDY Aid and High Needs Nursing Aid.


FISCAL BILLS

Syracuse Lottery Advance

  • S.6157, DeFrancisco - PASSED
  • A.8921, Magnarelli - PASSED
  • Delivered to the Governor 7/6
  • SIGNED 7/18 - CHAPTER 265.

The legislation will help to ensure the fiscal stability of the Syracuse City School District by providing $6 million in aid to the school district from New York State Lottery revenues. This assistance would be in the form of accelerated payment (or "spin up") of funds that would ordinarily have been disbursed in later years.

Buffalo Fiscal Stability

  • A.9048-B, Peoples - PASSED
  • S.6315, Volker - PASSED
  • Vetoed 8/28 Memo 141.
  • Tabled 8/29.

This legislation clarifies the terms under which the Control Board determines when the fiscal control period ends and the advisory period begins. Most important for our members is our defeat of provisions of the bill that would have allowed municipal employees to receive step salary increases, while specifically excluding school district employees. NYSUT amended the bill to remove the exclusion of school district employees, thus allowing them to be eligible for the same step increases.

School aid adjustment for Kenmore

  • A.7175-A, Schimminger - PASSED
  • S.4220-A, Rath - PASSED
  • UPDATE 8/1: Vetoed Memo 83
  • Tabled 8/1

This legislation provides adjusted valuation for school aid in the Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda Union Free school district, county of Erie.

Expanding residential investment exemptions

  • S.4799-A Farley
  • A.7655-A Tonko
  • Delivered to the Governor 7/20
  • Signed 8/1 - CHAPTER 464

This legislation authorizes granting of the residential investment exemption in certain school districts.

Change to transportation contracts for Ilion SD

  • S.4790-A Seward
  • A.8663-A Butler
  • Delivered to the Governor 7/20
  • Signed 8/1 - CHAPTER 463

This legislation legalizes transportation contracts for the Ilion Central School District for the 2004-2005 school year.

Self-supporting programs exempt from school's contingency budget purposes

  • S.691 Flanagan
  • A.832 Englebright
  • Delivered to the Governor 7/20
  • Signed 8/1 - CHAPTER 422

This legislation provides that expenditures for self-supporting programs shall not be considered as part of a school district's total spending for contingency budget purposes.

Freeing up school district's reserve funds

  • S.3577-A Saland
  • A.6117-A Galef
  • Delivered to the Governor 7/20
  • Signed 8/1 - CHAPTER 445

This bill relates to the use of monies in the reserve fund established by a school district; provides that such monies shall be determined reasonably required to pay any judgement or claim if the proceeding or claim has not been finally determined or terminated after the exhaustion of all appeals.

Extention of Yonkers personal income tax surcharge

  • A.6964 Pretlow (MS)
  • S.4135 Stewart-Cousins
  • SIGNED 7/26 - CHAPTER 380

This bill extends the expiration date of the personal income tax surcharge imposed in the city of Yonkers.

Funding for Rochester school construction projects

  • A.9227 Gantt (MS)
  • S.6419 Robach, S 6347-A Robach
  • Delivered to the Governor 7/20
  • Signed 8/1. CHAPTER 416.

This bill provides the City of Rochester and the Rochester City School District with increased flexibility to meet the needs of its school children by providing alternative financing mechanisms for the reconstruction of up to thirteen school buildings.

Extension of IDA provisions

  • A.9238 Hoyt
  • No same as
  • SIGNED 7/26 - CHAPTER 381

Industrial Development Agencies (IDAs) have been created by the State Legislature to promote the economic welfare and prosperity of the State`s inhabitants and to actively promote, attract, encourage and develop economically sound commerce and industry for the purpose of preventing unemployment and economic deterioration. Several provisions of the IDA statute are set to expire in July of this year including: the authorization for IDAs to finance civic facility and continuing care retirement projects; certain tax policies and restrictions on the use of agency funds; and certain hearing notice requirements.

The purpose of this bill is to extend certain expiring provisions of the law related to Industrial Development Agencies.


RETIREMENT AND RETIREE ISSUES

Optional Retirement Program (ORP) Pension Equity (also in Higher Education)

  • S.5208-A, Padavan - PASSED
  • A.8447, Abbate - PASSED
  • Delivered to the Governor 8/3
  • SIGNED 8/15. Chapter 617.

This legislation provides for a three-year phase-in of the employer pick-up of the three percent member contributions to the Optional Retirement Program (ORP) for members with ten or more years of membership in such program.

At the time of the ORP's creation, the Legislature recognized that, while the ORP's structure is different from that of ERS or TRS, it was the Legislature's expressed intent to ensure the equitable treatment of all public retirement systems. This intent is expressed in statute and in state pension task force analysis. Currently, members of the Employees' Retirement System (ERS) and the Teachers' Retirement System (TRS) do not contribute to the retirement system after the attainment of ten years of membership or credited service.

Credit for Layoff Time

  • S.5309, Marcellino - PASSED
  • A.8445, Abbate - PASSED
  • Delivered to the Governor 8/3
  • UPDATE 8/15 - Veto Memo 133 

This legislation allows members in the NYSTRS, who were members in the NYCTRS and laid off by the City on or after 1975, the ability to purchase credit for up to two years of such layoff period; and reopens Chapter 479 of the Laws of 2001 to enable any member of the NYCTRS who failed to make timely application, the ability to file for such credit at this time.

Federal Tax Exemption for Prior and Military Service Contributions

  • S.6376, Rules - PASSED
  • A.8470, Abbate - PASSED
  • Delivered to the Governor 8/16 
  • SIGNED 8/28 - CHAPTER 627

This legislation would allow members in several public retirement systems in New York State to elect to purchase credit for previous service and military service by pre-tax payroll deduction, if such purchases are allowed by the affected retirement system based on a favorable ruling from the Internal Revenue Service.

Veterans Benefit Cap

  • S.2138-A, Johnson - PASSED
  • A.4649-B, Sweeney - PASSED
  • Delivered to Governor - 7/20
  • VETOED 8/1 - VETO MEMO 92

This legislation allows a member in the retirement system, who has served at least three years in the military, and who has reached the maximum retirement benefit limitation to receive additional service credit for military service credit. This would allow the member to obtain benefits beyond the present benefit limitations.

Authorization for Certain Public Retirement Systems to Preserve Records in a Durable Medium

  • S.6112-A, Golden - PASSED
  • A.8707-A, Abbate - PASSED
  • Delivered to Governor - 7/20
  • SIGNED 8/1 - CHAPTER 496

This legislation allows ERS and NYC Retirement plans to establish alternative methods of reproducing and preserving retirement system records. NYSTRS already has statutory authorization (Chapter 346 of the Laws of 1995).

Refunding for 25/55 New York city transit authority members

  • A.6586 Abbate
  • S.6191 Rules
  • SIGNED 7/26 - CHAPTER 379

This bill provides for the refunding of contributions made to the twenty-five year and age fifty-five retirement program by New York city transit authority members.


LABOR/TAYLOR LAW

Weingarten Rights

  • S.3071-A, Robach - PASSED
  • A.5984-A, Abbate - PASSED
  • Delivered to the Governor - 7/6
  • SIGNED 7 /18 - CHAPTER 244.

This legislation makes it an improper employer practice for a public employer to interfere with an employee's right to representation and to fail to permit representation by a representative of the employee organization or a designee of such employee organization, during questioning by his or her employer when it reasonably appears that the interview might result in disciplinary action.

Independent Hearing Officers

  • S.4357, Maltese - PASSED
  • A.6649, Lentol - PASSED
  • UPDATE 7/3: Vetoed Memo 33

This legislation provides for the appointment of an independent and neutral hearing officer in disciplinary actions against public employees.

Under current law a person represented by a certified or recognized collective bargaining organization pursuant to article 14 of this chapter shall be entitled to a hearing upon such charges to be conducted by an independent hearing officer to be agreed to by the employer and the person against whom disciplinary action is proposed. If the parties are unable to agree upon a hearing officer, he or she shall be selected from a list of seven names to be provided by the Public Employee Relations Board. The Public Employee Relations Board shall select the hearing officer by alternately striking names from the list of seven. The hearing officer shall be vested with all powers of the appointing authority, shall conduct and make a record of a hearing, and shall render a final decision.

Child Care Provider Insurance Report

  • S.2140-A, Seward
  • A.2093-A, Lifton
  • UPDATE SIGNED 6/4 - CHAPTER 65..

This legislation directs the Commissioner of OCFS in consultation with the Superintendent of Insurance to study the availability, accessibility, and affordability of insurance policies to child care providers, including but not limited to homeowners and health insurance.

State Employee Accident Reporting

  • S.1710, Robach - PASSED
  • A.6642, John - PASSED
  • UPDATE 6/22: Delivered to the Governor
  • UPDATE SIGNED 7/3 - CHAPTER 171.

This legislation requires the President of the Civil Service Commission to produce an annual report about workplace injuries and costs in State agencies.

Leave for Breast/Prostate Screening

  • S.5181-B, Morahan
  • A.6112-D, Brodsky
  • UPDATE 6/22: Delivered to the Governor
  • UPDATE SIGNED 7/3 - CHAPTER 111.

This bill provides employees of school districts, and county and municipal employees around the state a maximum of four hours excused leave annually to obtain a screening for prostate cancer. In addition, this bill provides these employees around the state a maximum of four hours excused leave annually to obtain a screening for breast cancer.

Limits identifying employees through social security numbers

  • S.4393, Flanagan
  • A.1108, Destito
  • UPDATE 6/22: Delivered to the Governor
  • UPDATE 8/1: Vetoed Memo 78

This bill limits the use of social security numbers for identification of employees.

Leave for Donating Blood

  • UPDATE 8/15: SIGNED BY THE GOVERNOR CHAPTER #578

This legislation requires employers with twenty or more employees to provide up to three hours of leave annually for employees to donate blood. 

Right of Nursing Mothers to Express Breast Milk

  • UPDATE 8/15: SIGNED BY THE GOVERNOR CHAPTER #574

This legislation requires employers to provide reasonable unpaid break time or permit usage of paid break or meal time each day for nursing mothers to express breast milk for up to three years following the birth of her child.  Employers are further required to make reasonable efforts to provide a room or other location near the work area for employees to express milk in privacy.


HEALTH CARE

Breast Cancer Research

  • S.269, Alesi - PASSED
  • A.1013, Englebright - PASSED
  • Delivered to Governor 7/20
  • SIGNED 8/1 - CHAPTER 385

This legislation provides additional state appropriations to the breast cancer research and education fund. The bill clarifies that the state will match not only the funding from the breast cancer income tax check-off and license plate sales, but also match any bequest, grant or gift made to the Breast Cancer Research and Education Fund.

Anti Mandatory Overtime

  • A.1898-B, Gunther - REPASSED
  • S.6342, Morahan - RULES

While the anti-mandatory overtime bill has not yet become law, the 2007 session should be noted for two things in regard to the bill (A.1898-B/S.6342). First, the overwhelming participation and collaborative efforts of on NYSUT/AFL-CIO and the other major health care worker organizations to rally at The Capitol on May 22 to bring attention to this dangerous practice by hospitals on nurses to not only the NYS legislators but to all of NYS residents. Second, the active communication among the NYS Assembly, Senate and the aforementioned health care organizations in hopes of producing and passing an agreeable and safe piece of legislation that ends this unsafe practice for our health care professionals.

Discussion over this bill will continue over the coming months and it is important that NYSUT members continue to remain active with their elected officials so New York State can witness an anti-mandatory overtime bill for its nurses.

Clarification of DOH/managed care contracts

  • S.3986-A Hannon
  • A.8128-A Gottfried
  • Delivered to the Governor 7/20
  • Signed 8/1 - CHAPTER 451

Relates to contracts with managed care organizations; extends collection and public reporting of quality measures to health insurance entities not currently represented in New York state quality assurance reporting requirements; makes the Department of Health contract standard clauses applicable to all parties to provider contracts of all managed care organizations.


PSYCHOLOGISTS

Safe Housing Units (SHU) for Inmates with Severe Mental Illness

  • S.333-B, Nozzollio - PASSED
  • A.4870-C, Aubry - PASSED

The current practice of placing inmates who have a severe mental illness in solitary confinement causes increased psychological damage. These confined inmates suffer from deteriorating conditions, increased acts of self-mutilation and increased suicide rates. The proposed Residential Mental Health Treatment programs in this legislation has been applied in several states, and provides the appropriate methods of handling inmates with severe psychiatric ailments. This bill will allow inmates targeted for solitary confinement to be screened by a mental health clinician to assess whether they have a severe mental illness and will be better served by being placed in a Residential Mental Health Treatment Program. The “Mental Health Clinician” will be a Psychiatrist, Psychologist, Nurse Practitioner, or Clinical Social Worker who is licensed to practice in the state. Inmates will receive therapy and programming in settings that are appropriate to their clinical needs while maintaining the safety and security of the facility.

OASAS/Inclusion of Licensed Psychologists in Assessment for Alcohol and Drug Dependency

  • S.5780 -A, Fuschillo - PASSED
  • A.8054 -A, Gantt - PASSED
  • Delivered to the Governor 8/16
  • Signed 8/28 - Chapter 669

This legislation enacted comprehensive reform in New York State for those individuals who have been involved in an alcohol or drug-related traffic offense. Under current law, any person who has been convicted of a traffic offense in connection with the use of drugs or alcohol may be assessed for a dependency problem through the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Service (OASAS). OASAS is required to develop a list of the names and locations of all licensed agencies and credentialed alcohol and substance abuse providers throughout the state that are capable of and available to provide assessment of and treatment for alcohol and substance abuse dependency. The law failed to specifically include licensed psychologists (and others) among OASAS's list of mental health professionals who are qualified to make drug and alcohol dependency assessments. This legislation amends Chapter 732 of the Laws of 2006 to include licensed psychologists.

Amending Timothy's law

  • S.6234 Seward
  • A.9263 Morelle
  • Delivered to the Governor 7/20
  • Signed 8/1 - CHAPTER 502

This bill makes technical amendments to Timothy's law providing coverage for mental health care.


OTHER BILLS OF INTEREST

Campaign Finance Reform

Campaign Finance Reform initiatives were introduced this session. NYSUT worked successfully with the Governor and the Legislature to protect NYSUT's voice in the political processes by blocking any initiatives that would have curtailed the ability of large statewide public employee organizations to support candidates or political parties on a statewide or grassroots level. Part of this effort was to defeat attempts to impose an aggregate cap on spending for campaign contributions and political activities that would have benefited wealthy corporations and individuals at the expense of large statewide public employee organizations. We further protected our voice in the political process by successfully blocking measures that would have jeopardized our ability to participate in national campaigns

Funding to reduce traffic congestion in Manhattan

  • A.9362 Silver (MS)
  • S.6432 Rules
  • SIGNED 7/26 - CHAPTER 384

This bill authorizes New York City to begin the process of implementing a traffic congestion pricing plan within a zone of severe traffic congestion in Manhattan.

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