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Workers’ comp reform uncertain

New York legislative leaders and Gov. George Pataki could reach a state budget agreement this week, says Assemblyman Joseph Morelle, D-Irondequoit.
Agreement on workers’ compensation insurance reform, however, appears less certain at this point.
After meeting with Assembly leaders this morning, Morelle said that Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan; Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, R-Brunswick, and Pataki are down to quibbling over relatively few dollars in the $63 billion spending plan.

Workers’ comp reform uncertain

New York legislative leaders and Gov. George Pataki could reach a state budget agreement this week, says Assemblyman Joseph Morelle, D-Irondequoit.
Agreement on workers’ compensation insurance reform, however, appears less certain at this point.
After meeting with Assembly leaders this morning, Morelle said that Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan; Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, R-Brunswick, and Pataki are down to quibbling over relatively few dollars in the $63 billion spending plan. For example, some $10 million worth of school aid out of a $10 billion line remain in dispute.
The Assembly and Senate each have already passed their own unmatching versions of a 1996-1997 state spending plan. But without a three-way agreement among the two houses and the governor, the legislative actions are meaningless.
The Senate recessed June 17, with Bruno issuing a statement saying that he was “confident agreements can be reached soon” on the budget and workers’ comp reform.
The Assembly remains in session.
While he believes Bruno, Silver and Pataki to be close to a budget accord, Morelle said that he is less confident that Silver will relent on workers’ comp.
Business groups this year targeted a key workers’ comp provision–the so-called Dole v. Dow law–for repeal.
The law lets equipment makers sued by injured New York workers in turn sue the workers’ employers.
The Senate passed a reform package doing away with Dole versus Dow, but the Assembly’s version does not repeal the provision. Assembly Democrats Friday called for Tuesday hearings attacking the state’s Compensation Insurance Rating Board, which had earlier issued an unfavorable report on Silver’s workers’ comp reform plan.
In the meantime, 34 Assembly Democrats including Morelle last week petitioned Silver to pass a “meaningful” reform package.
Morelle several weeks ago said he considered the possibility that Silver would agree to ending Dole v. Dow. However, this morning he conceded that such reform could be lost due to the budget’s lateness.
This year’s state budget, now 85 days past the April 1 deadline for adoption, is the state’s latest budget in more than a decade of missed deadlines.
One further qualification of Morelle’s optimistic projections of a midweek agreement: If the legislative leaders and Pataki do not agree by Thursday, Morelle said, negotiations could stretch past the July 4 holiday. And if that happens, warned the Irondequoit Assemblyman: “We could be talking about some real delays.”

RBJ Daily 6-24-96

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