Help for New York veterans, businesses

A number of stories have been written about high profile legislative proposals which were under the Albany microscope during the closing days of the 2014 legislative session. I will be highlighting many of the successes in the coming weeks, but today I would like to draw your attention to a pair of issues that may not have received the headlines but will have a profound impact on many.

First, a bill aiding veterans who are public employees and members of the state retirement system. Currently, the Military Service Credit Law of 2000 permits active public employees who served in the military during certain conflicts to purchase up to three years retirement credit for their military service. However, I have always believed that all veterans, regardless of where or when they served, should be afforded this opportunity.

Several bills have been introduced over the years in the legislature that would expand the eligibility requirements and finally, this year, a bill I co-sponsor (S.7839) received approval by both the senate and the assembly.

This measure, assisting our servicemen and women, has wide-ranging support from veteran and labor groups, and I am extremely pleased it will finally be going to the governor for his consideration.

Another measure, passed by both the senate and the assembly and headed to the governor, will help make New York a more affordable place to conduct business.

In the past I have advanced legislation to repeal the costly notifications provision of the so-called “Wage Theft Prevention Act of 2010”. Finally, this year, the assembly has joined the senate and the bill is set to be sent to the governor and signed into law.

While the “Wage Theft Prevention Act” – which I voted against when it was first proposed - sounds well-intentioned, it does nothing to help employees and instead heaps a mountain of useless paperwork on to the desks of business owners.

The mandate forces employers to supply all employees with a lengthy annual wage notice. There are seven different forms depending on the type of pay (hourly, salary, etc). The forms must be provided in the primary language of each employee. Businesses are also required to obtain a written acknowledgement of the receipt of this notice from every employee and retain records of it for six years.

Businesses face stiff fines for failure to comply with the wage notice and record keeping requirements. The penalty of $50 per employee could cost large employers thousands of dollars.

The New York State Department of Labor has conceded that wage compliance is an issue for only a small percentage of employers, despite the universal application of this annual notice requirement. This type of annual notification requirement should be reserved for instances where non-compliance has been an issue, however, as an across the board measure, it adds costs and provides little if any additional benefit.

The notification mandate is the business world equivalent of school busy work. It is duplicative and a waste of time and money. One employee benefit firm calculated that, with 7.3 million people employed in New York State, more than 51 million pages of paper are needed to comply with this law, or about 600 trees.

I am fully in favor of employee protections and feel they play an important role in the workplace. However, this requirement does nothing but drive up the cost of doing business in a state already synonymous with over regulation.

While this revision may not seem flashy or include an announcement of millions of dollars it relieves an unnecessary burden on our businesses and allows employers to focus on growing and creating jobs. Regulatory reforms like this that cut government red tape aid in remaking our state’s business climate – helping existing businesses expand and attracting new companies to our state.

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