News from the
NYS Assembly Committee on

NYS Assembly Seal

Sheldon Silver, Speaker · Peter J. Abbate Jr., Chairman  Fall 2003

Assemblyman Peter J. Abbate, Jr.

Message from the Chairman

As the State continues to deal with the current fiscal situation, we cannot forget those public employees who serve us everyday. When I was appointed chair of the Assembly Governmental Employees Committee, I made a commitment to continue the tradition of promoting fair and just legislation to benefit our active and retired public employees. I will not turn my back on these dedicated public servants just because money is tight.

This year the Committee had to address a number of problems. Chief among them were: laws that would be expiring and whether they should be renewed; the continuing problems from the September 11th tragedy; and a potential problem with health care benefits for retirees.

This newsletter highlights the Assembly’s answer to these problems.

I would like to thank all the committee members and staff, and especially the public employee unions, their representatives and the many government officials who shared in the legislative process.

If you have any questions or concerns for the committee, please feel free to contact me.

Peter J. Abbate, Jr.

New York State Assembly
Committee on Governmental Employees
Room 839 LOB
Albany, New York 12248

Assembly Extends Laws About to Expire…
Maintains public employees rights and benefits

A number of provisions of the laws affecting public employees’ rights and benefits contain expiration dates, requiring the Legislature to periodically review the provisions in order to assure that the laws are needed and their intent remains relevant.

The following laws have been extended for another two years:

Agency Shop Law — requires public employees who are not union members to pay an agency shop fee equal to union dues less the amount used for political or ideological purposes. This law recognizes the benefit gained by non-union members through representation and should be supported by those non-union members. (A.4897 - Chapter 342)

Additionally, the Assembly passed legislation which would make the agency shop fee provisions a permanent law, therefore ending the need to renew the law every two years. (A.3533 - Passed Assembly Only)

Binding Arbitration — Police and fire protection are public services which must be maintained without disruption. One method to assure continued protection is the requirement of binding arbitration when a labor impasse occurs. (A.4971 - Chapter 57)

Injunctive Relief — provides for an expedited method to resolve improper practices in the public sector where there was deemed to be immediate and irreparable harm. It has enabled labor and management to resolve numerous issues. (A.4965 - Chapter 90)

Police and Fire Tier II Status — Members of the New York State Police and Fire Retirement System hired after July 1, 1976 have been granted Tier 2 status. (A.7099 - Chapter 91)

General Extender - numerous temporary provisions of the retirement and social security law. This law continues all temporary benefits, employee contributions, supplemental retirement allowances, Tier 3 and the prohibition against negotiating retirement benefits. (A.7098 - Chapter 92)

Assemblyman Abbate inspects safety conditions with members of the Transport Workers Union and The Transit Authority

Retiree Benefits

In recent years, some public employers, including the governor, have proposed legislation to abandon their long-standing policy of providing health care coverage for retirees in an attempt to contain or reduce health insurance costs. Since there is no statutory requirement that employers provide health care coverage to retirees, this allows the public employer to unilaterally diminish or even eliminate health insurance benefits to retirees.

The Assembly strongly believes that retirees should be protected from the loss or diminution of health care benefits, and passed several pieces of legislation addressing this issue.

Since 1994, school district employees have been protected from reductions or changes in benefits plans, unless similar changes are made to active employees. Once again the Assembly extended the provisions of this law for another year. (A.2824, Chapter 48) The Assembly also passed legislation to make this a permanent benefit. (A.2828 - passed Assembly only)

These protections should be extended to other public retirees, and the Assembly passed several bills addressing this issue. Two bills provide the same protections afforded school district retirees for all public employees on a temporary basis (A.4962) and on a permanent basis (A.4963). These bills passed the Assembly only.

Another bill that passed both houses and is awaiting Executive action prohibits a county, city, town or public improvement or special district from diminishing health benefits to retirees unless there is a corresponding diminution of benefits to the corresponding group of active employees. (A.8771). This bill has passed both houses and is awaiting action by the governor.

World Trade Center Legislation

Disability Retirement
Last year the Assembly passed legislation that would establish a presumptive disability retirement related to exposure to elements in connection with the World Trade Center tragedy of September 11, 2001. Virtually thousands of public employees including police, fire, correction officer and other civilian workers rendered rescue and recovery services at the site of the former World Trade Center. These workers were exposed to numerous environmental hazards which may impact their health in future years.

This Session, after negotiations and reworking of the legislation, the Senate has joined the Assembly in passing the bill. The legislation provides that if a public employee contracts a disease or disability, it will be presumed that it was a result of an accident and was sustained, unless proven otherwise, in the performance of duty and they can therefore apply for an accidental disability retirement. This coverage would also apply to those who retired after September 11, 2001, if they subsequently contract such disease or disability. The bill also provides for a registry of those who worked at the site to further assist in tracking and documenting claims. (A.8517 - passed both houses, awaiting Governor action)

Sibling Legacy Credit
Legislation was introduced and passed both houses which would assist siblings of fire fighters and police officers killed in the line-of-duty on 9/11. The bill provides for civil service credit points to siblings of those killed on 9/11 who wish to follow their brothers or sisters in the tradition of public service. (A.5790 - Chapter 500)

Assemblyman Abbate meets with members of the New York State Troopers Police Benevolent Association. Left to Right, Back Row: Trooper Bob Kotin, Troop E; PBA Secretary & Troops G&H Delegate Jeffrey Kayser; BCI Delegate Mike DiDilvio; PBA Legislative Director and 2nd Vice President Gordon Warnock; PBA 1st Vice President Don Postles; Capt. Patrick Williams, State police Division Headquarters; Troop T Delegate Keith Forte; Troop D Delegate Gary Oelkers. Left to Right, Front Row: Sgt. Jim Needham, Troop L; Troop K Delegate William Staviski; PBA Treasurer and Troop C Delegate Tom Pomeroy; PBA President Dan DeFedericis; Assemblyman Abbate; Troop B Delegate Jim Monty; Troop A Delegate Jack Moretti.

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