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 2017 GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS AGENDA         

FEDERAL ISSUES - -

 

I. CANADIAN – U.S. COMMERCE:

1)         We must support, promote and defend the growing value of the U.S. – Canada economic relationship in all of its forms as debate grows around “trade” and “NAFTA”, strongly differentiating our links with Canada from real or perceived issues related to Mexico, China and others.

2)      We remain fully committed to the vision and spirit of a “Port of Excellence” at Champlain/Lacolle, in accord with the vision and goals as stated in the “Declaration for Excellence” promulgated by the Quebec-New York Corridor Coalition on October 21, 2002.

3)      We actively encourage and support bi-lingualism (French and English) on new signage by public agencies of all levels in the North Country.

4)      We express our continued support for excellence in customer service by all federal border agencies at Champlain, and particularly by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. 

5)      We seek priority commitment by both the U.S. and Canadian governments to the maximum feasible harmonization of regulations, immigration laws, procedures and enforcement, moving rapidly toward a shared U.S.-Canadian perimeter, thereby preserving maximum fluidity at our shared border.  This includes finalization of a bi-national Pre-Clearance Agreement.

6)      We remain absolutely opposed to the imposition of new exit controls at the U.S.-Canadian border, as originally envisioned in Section 110, except via an agreement with Canada whereby entry into Canada is reported to the U.S. as exit from the U.S.

7)      We support continued strong advocacy of our Quebec-New York Corridor and of an appropriate shift in planning and interaction among local, state, provincial and federal agencies in line with the shift in commerce and economic integration reflected within our Corridor region.

8)      We call for a significant commitment of resources by the Dept. of Homeland Security for the marketing and promotion of NEXUS and other WHTI ID enrollment.

9)      We call for the U.S. and Canadian governments to finalize and implement a common sense approach to pre-clearing Amtrak passengers without significant stoppage.

10)  We support the Beyond the Border Action Plan, including several specific elements relevant to the North Country.

11)  We support continuation of the DHS Air & Marine operation at Plattsburgh.

12)  We oppose any transfer of northern border personnel, assets or resources to the southern border.

13)  We support U.S. – Canadian studies and collaboration to develop and implement flood prevention efforts in the Lake Champlain/Richelieu River Basin.

14)  We support a common sense solution to bi-national boating and fishing on the St. Lawrence.

15)  We support the earliest possible rehabilitation of the Ogdensburg International bridge.

 

II.             OTHER FEDERAL ISSUES:

1)      Enactment of more stringent controls on pollutants from the Midwest and elsewhere which are responsible for the continuing, degrading phenomenon of acid rain in the Adirondacks.

2)      Continued implementation of the Lake Champlain Basin Plan according to the letter and intent of the plan as agreed to, and in compliance with the guiding principles under which consensus was achieved, including: balance with economic interests and priorities; no unfunded mandates; no new regulations and no new regulatory structure; and emphasis on voluntary action and on local planning, approval and implementation; and the utilization of sound science including meaningful risk assessment and cost-benefit analysis.

3)      Appropriate federal and state support for needed research, development and corrective action in response to nuisance non-native species in the Lake Champlain Basin, including but not limited to zebra mussels, lamprey eel control by lampricides and other means, Cormorrants, and weeds such as water chestnuts and milfoil, among others.

4)      The enactment of well targeted federal tax relief aimed at supporting future economic growth, including but not limited to capital gains tax reductions, the indexation of capital gains for inflation, and the elimination of the annual alternative minimum tax, as well as overall tax simplification.

5)      Amendment of the Equal Access to Justice Act, enabling a small employer to recover attorney fees and costs from the federal government when the employer prevails in court, regardless of whether the agency’s case was “substantially justified”.

6)      Support for the concept of “equal pay for equal work” and opposition to the doctrine of comparable worth in both the public and private sectors.

7)       Support for federal and/or state legislation which would provide more limited liability to employers who in good faith provide employment reference information.

8)      Appropriate and accelerated actions to address our nation’s current and future energy security and independence, including encouragement of environmentally sensitive exploration in new areas as a means of expanding domestic supply, and appropriate support for expanding access to such alternatives as natural gas.  Also, enhanced access to abundant supplies of energy in Canada including natural gas, oil and hydropower. This includes supporting the Champlain Hudson Express project, the Keystone Pipeline and other enhanced connections.

9)      We support the preservation of Amtrak’s national rail passenger network, including federal and state investments in the long-term capital requirements for higher speed intercity passenger service. We also generally support national and state investment in high speed rail, including Montreal – New York City.

10)  We oppose any utilization of the Unemployment Insurance program, which is fully financed by employers to offer paid leave under FMLA, at either the federal or state levels.

11)  We support federal legislation allowing employers to offer the voluntary option of compensatory time in lieu of monetary overtime pay.

12)  Restore expanded numbers for H1-B visas, and oppose any new restrictions on L1 visas, including the imposition of any cap.

13)  Support efforts to limit and properly define asbestos liability, limiting liability to actual cases of injury.

14)  We support the principles of free trade, including the continued negotiation and ratification of free trade agreements by the U.S., both bi-laterally and multi-laterally.

15)  We support amendments to the Industrial Homework Law that give employers flexibility to allow workers the ability to work from home.

16)  We oppose government mandated employee benefits including health insurance mandates on employers.

17)  We generally support the positions and advocacy of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce with regard to federal health care/health insurance reform.  

18)  We support continuation of the FAA Essential Air Service program, helping to guarantee continued passenger services to small airports such as Plattsburgh and Adirondack.  We oppose the imposition of any required local match.

19)  We oppose increases in application or processing fees for work visas, including L1 visas.

20)  We support and full funding for the federal Workforce Development Act as a vital component of workforce development in the North Country.

21)  We oppose any expansion of the definition of disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

22)  We oppose any immigration reforms by the federal government which would impose undue or unreasonable liabilities and mandates upon employers.  Any new or changed documentation requirements must be supported by an adequate federal system, and must hold harmless employers who make good faith decisions. We generally support comprehensive immigration reform as defined by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

23)  We oppose the creation of a 24/7 Border Patrol checkpoint on I-87 as an unacceptable creation of a second interior border, defining the North Country as a separate zone.  We support the direction of homeland security resources to the actual border, which continues to need full funding for various purposes including additional staffing.

24)  We oppose Card Check, which would diminish current reliance on secret ballots for unionization.  We also oppose other elements of this initiative that would disturb the current employer/employee balance, including any imposition of mandatory arbitration.

25)  On matters relating to “climate change”, we generally support the positions and advocacy of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, including adherence to the following core principles:

1)      Preserve American jobs and competitiveness of U.S. Industry;

2)      Provide an international, economy-wide solution, including developing nations;

3)      Promote accelerated development and deployment of greenhouse gas reduction technology;

4)      Reduce barriers to the development of climate friendly energy sources; and

5)      Promote energy conservation and efficiency.

26)  We oppose any version of “cap and trade” which would violate these principles and increase energy costs to U.S. businesses and consumers.

27)  We are extremely concerned at the growing level of federal spending and the size of the federal deficit. We support urgent attention to controlling and reducing both.

28)  We support meaningful federal medical liability reform.

29)  We oppose new “Buy American” mandates in federal or state spending measures, particularly the application of such provisions and restrictions against Canada.  We support such current initiatives as proposals to include state/provincial and local government contracts in both the U.S. and Canada in the provisions of NAFTA

30)  Work to amend the Affordable Care Act through common sense changes to employer requirements, taxation, and other burdens created under the law. This includes repeal of employer mandates, and repeal of the medical device tax.

31)  Support changes to Health Savings Accounts to make them more flexible and appealing to consumer and plan sponsors.

32)  Oppose “Living Wage” mandates at all levels.

33)  Access to capital must be a priority.  This includes the need to review and revise provisions of the 2011 Financial Services Reform Act which constitutes barriers to capital access, and which unduly impact community banks and other banks which have not been contributors to recent financial crises.

34)  We oppose any actions by the National Labor Relations Board to diminish the existing balance and fairness in employer-employee relations by diminishing or restricting the freedom and opportunity for employers to present their case and be an active part of any pending vote. This must include no acceleration of existing timelines for such employee votes in organizing efforts, such acceleration only diminishing the opportunity for full and fair consideration of all sides and facts.

35)  We call for action by the FCC to address long distance “failure to connect” issues being experienced by rural telephone customers in the North Country.  

36)  We support the Tax and Entitlement Reform agenda of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce                        

37)  We generally support new free trade and investment agreements to open markets and ignite U.S. economic growth.

38)  We support strong federal commitments to the modernization and expansion of America’s transportation, energy and water networks/infrastructure.  This must include full funding of the 5 year surface transportation bill enacted in 2015.

39)  We support the immediate approval of the Keystone pipeline project, and other potential energy connections with Canada.

40)  We support federal assistance and facilitation for broadband development and access.

41)  We oppose extension of EPA water rules to new definitions of waterways, likely to unreasonably interfere with business, agriculture and property rights.

42)  We express concern over the increasing practice of states to undermine the competitiveness of our region’s transportation equipment producers by imposing unreasonable state content requirements.

43)   We oppose force/funding reductions or changes which would diminish or undercut the future of Fort Drum.  We support other initiatives and actions designed to keep Fort Drum strong as put forward by the Fort Drum Liaison Committee.

44)   We support reversal of regulatory actions taken by the U.S. Labor Dept. in 2015 to redefine worker classifications and overtime requirements.  Future actions and potential adjustments should be subject to Congressional approval.

45)  We support Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform initiatives, including exemption of home distillery establishments from certain taxation and bonding requirements.

 

III.   NEW YORK STATE AND REGIONAL ISSUES:

1)      We call for urgent action to control and reduce the cost of health insurance in New York State, seeking reforms and actions which will provide a reduction in employer health insurance costs in New York State at the earliest possible date.

2)      We support continued well targeted tax relief aimed at supporting economic growth in New York State, including but not limited to repeal of the Ton Mileage Tax on trucking.

3)      We seek a review of reforms in the state’s Workers’ Compensation system enacted in 2007, and 2013. We also support further cost control reforms as advanced by Unshackle Upstate.

4)      Enactment of Civil Justice/Liability Reform in New York State as advanced and advocated by the Business Council, including elimination of joint and several liability and caps on punitive damages, among other provisions.

5)      As PCB dredging proceeds in the upper Hudson River, it is critical that the project be planned and implemented in such a way as to avoid any interruption in navigation on the Hudson River and the Champlain Canal, thus maintaining access to Lake Champlain.

6)      New York State and the Adirondack Park Agency must provide for the infrastructure required to establish and maintain comprehensive wireless/cellular phone service throughout the North Country as an essential ingredient in public safety, business, economic development and daily life.

7)      We support the accelerated development of new electric generating capacity in New York State that is necessary to assure adequate supplies and to achieve more competitive markets, as well as enhanced access to Canadian hydropower.

8)      We oppose any new taxes, fees or surcharges on electric energy, natural gas and petroleum products.  We call for reductions in existing energy taxes, and full and accelerated repeal of 2009 actions which increased energy costs.

9)      We support the active promotion of regulatory and tax reform to encourage increased investment and competition in New York State’s telecommunications and information technology industries.

10)  We support the doctrine of “employment at will” and oppose any attempt to undermine an employer’s right to employ and to terminate employment.

11)  We support legislation which protects an employer’s ability to create a drug-free workplace and excludes current drug and alcohol abuse from protection under the Human Rights Law.

12)  Controlling the shift of the property tax burden by halting the state enactment of new forms and categories of local property tax exemption, and reviewing and tightening qualifications for exemption programs.

13)  Continued commitment to the full implementation of the Workforce Development  Act locally and statewide, including a strong commitment to employer direction and ownership, customer service, measurable results, economic development support, and flexibility and simplicity.

14)  Continued pursuit of the distribution of natural gas in Essex Clinton and Franklin Counties. 

15)  Opposition to further increasing the minimum wage on a state level.  Any future minimum wage actions must be solely at the federal level to maintain consistency across the U.S. and to avoid creating a competitive disadvantage for New York State.

16)  We oppose any imposition of a mandatory day of rest for farm workers, or other state actions which would undermine the viability of agriculture.

17)  Maintenance of the Regents standards for educational performance in our schools and for graduation as an essential move toward enhancing education excellence and meeting the current and future needs of New York State employers.

18)  We oppose legislation which would designate a union/bargaining agent upon the showing of signed cards from a majority of employees versus a secret ballot of all employees.

19)  We oppose legislation which would in any way restrict employment/temp services from providing replacement workers during a labor dispute.

20)  We support the state’s commitment to developing and nurturing high technology enterprise in New York State, while simultaneously calling for the fullest possible inclusion of the North Country in all such programs, services and endeavors.

21)  We support the active pursuit of a third winter Olympic games in our region, including potential partnership between Lake Placid and Montreal/Quebec, or organized on a statewide basis.

22)  We oppose any extension of unemployment benefits, unless fully funded by the federal government and not imposed as an added cost to employers.

23)  We support on-going studies and planning efforts related to the enhancement of east-west transportation along the Route 11 corridor.

24)  We support reforms in the Medicaid system in New York State aimed at moderating and reducing costs, including elimination of the county role in financing Medicaid. This includes creation of a Medicaid Reform Commission with teeth for implementation, as called for by Unshackle Upstate.

25)  We support federal and state funding support for the preservation and rehabilitation of all surviving rails in the Adirondacks, including the Adirondack, Tahawus and Newton Falls lines.

26)  We support the development of competitive broadband in all of Clinton, Essex, Hamilton, Franklin and Warren Counties and in all of the North Country

27)  We oppose the approval of any additional health insurance mandates by Albany or Washington, said mandates only increasing the cost of insurance, thereby building greater barriers to access, increasing the ranks of the uninsured, and harming the New York State economy and job creation.

28)  We support the development of enhanced venture capital access in the North Country through various means.

29)  We support the restoration and redevelopment of the Strand Theater in Plattsburgh as an arts center, and the development of a downtown arts district. We further support the Downtown Revitalization Initiative, and its development and implementation of downtown redevelopment projects in Plattsburgh.

30)  We support the development and pursuit of appropriate strategies for the availability of affordable housing in the Adirondacks, guaranteeing the future ability of Adirondackers and middle-income people to live and work in the region

31)  We support the continuing development of Plattsburgh Aeronautical Institute by CV-TEC.

32)  We generally support the creation of guest worker programs to assist U.S. employers in meeting various workforce needs.

33)  We generally support the development of wind energy in the North Country at appropriate locations.

34)  We support the approval of required permits by APA and other agencies for the Adirondack Club and Resort proposed for Tupper Lake.

35)  We support programs and policies encouraging local governments, school districts and other public entities to identify and implement various forms of shared services, and to pursue mergers and dissolutions where practical.

36)  We support public pension reform in New York State aimed at controlling escalating obligations.

37)  We support general efforts to assist Bombardier Transportation, Nova Bus and other North Country manufacturers in identifying, pursuing and securing contracts for the production and/or rehabilitation of transportation equipment at their North Country facilities.

38)  We generally oppose any efforts by Adirondack Park Agency and/or other state regulatory bodies to apply new restrictions on private campground operations in the Adirondack Park.

39)  We support urgent action at the state and federal levels to address the growing challenges of health care in the North Country, particularly as they relate to reimbursement/payment policies and schedules, and the resulting impact on the retention and recruitment of doctors and other health care professionals.

40)  We insist that any reforms of health care by the state reflect recognition of the significant differences between rural areas such as ours and metro areas, and avoid “one size fits all” changes.

41)  We support repeal or substantial reform of the WICKS law. Short of repeal, the threshold for applying the requirement should be increased to $3 million per project.

42)  We endorse and embrace the positions and recommendations of Unshackle Upstate with regard to the State budget, and the need for reductions and reforms in state spending and taxes.

43)  We support the consolidation of state agencies, particularly back office functions.

44)  We support the Property Tax Cap, as enacted, and its successful implementation and permanent extension.   We oppose proposals which would water down the cap.

45)  Restructure public employee benefits to more closely align such benefits with comparable private sector benefits, particularly in high-cost areas such as health insurance and pension benefits.

46)  The state’s economic development programs must continue in ways which incorporate the following: 

·         Regional strategies, opportunities and priorities, with empowered Regional Economic Development Councils.

·         State incentives sufficient to be competitive with other states and to help counter the high cost of doing business in New York.

·         Sufficient predictability and reliability for state incentives to be marketable.

·         Strengthened support for small business.

·         Recognition of aircraft maintenance, repair, overhaul and servicing as a target deserving of the highest levels of state support.

·         Continuation of Start-Up N.Y. Programs

·         Continuation of the public/private partnership approaches of SUNY Polytechnic.

·         Specifically targeted support for economic development within the Adirondack Park.

·         A strong state commitment to economic interaction with Canada, including our Quebec-New York Corridor initiative.

 

47)  The state must restore the power of IDA’s to finance public facilities, and must not impose union, prevailing wage, or other cost-increasing requirements on IDA financing.

48)  We acknowledge the startling findings of the Adirondack Assessment with regard to economic and community sustainability within the Adirondack Park, and support various actions and approaches designed to address the special challenges and circumstances in this very unique region of New York.

49)  Support all appropriate federal and/or state assistance or actions supportive of the Pfizer, and Chateaugay transition efforts.

50)  Support continued state funding for the Beekmantown Welcome Center on I-87.

51)  Impose a State Spending Cap, limiting annual increases in state spending.

52)  Reduce the size and cost of the government workforce.

53)  Reform the State’s new Paid Family Leave and Paid Sick Leave mandates to exempt small employers and make other reasonable adjustments.

54)  We seek, in partnership with Unshackle Upstate and others, meaningful and substantial action to provide mandate relief for local governments and school districts as an indispensable part of addressing the causes of high and rising property taxes in New York State. Such relief should include, among other measures to be identified and supported, public pension system reforms, Prevailing Wage reform, changes in the Tri-borough Amendment, further reforms to Medicaid, and enactment of the Unfunded Mandate Reform Act.

55)  We seek, in partnership with Unshackle Upstate and others, meaningful and substantial action to provide mandate and regulatory relief for businesses in New York State, and we will work with our members and with partner coalitions to develop an agenda of recommended actions.

56)  The State Health Insurance Exchange must continually emphasize consumer choice and competition, and must preserve the role of licensed brokers and of chambers of commerce in health insurance sales, marketing and service.

57)  We support state and county legislative action to authorize up to a 5% occupancy tax in Clinton County, coupled with the continuation of all existing provisions requiring the use of proceeds for tourism marketing and development.

58)  Reform the Scaffold Law to recognize contributory negligence.

59)  Require a two-thirds "supermajority" vote in each house of the Legislature to enact any new tax or impose any new unfunded mandate on localities or school districts that would raise local taxes.

60)  We support a Constitutional Amendment creating a “land bank” in the Adirondack Park.  We also support a pending Constitutional Amendment to facilitate productive reuse of the former Camp Gabriels correctional facility

61)  We support the “New ERA for Upstate” agenda advanced by Unshackle Upstate.

62)  We support the objectives of the North Country STEM Hub and Thrive to enhance education and the quality of life in the region.

63)  We support the work, plans and strategies of the North Country Regional Economic Development Council, and continued state support and funding for the regional councils, free of any imposition of expanded interference by state legislators and other officials.

64)  We support and encourage the active use of Public-Private Partnerships in New York State to meet our current and future infrastructure needs.

65)  We oppose the imposition of Prevailing Wage requirements or Project Labor Agreements on state, local, IDA or private projects.

66)  We support the review of enhanced state MWBE requirements and the application of common sense and realities in the setting of such requirements on state contracts in the North Country, avoiding the outflow of resources from our region to downstate to meet requirements.

67)  Improve SEQRA and permitting programs to give business a more certain, workable timetable for the environmental review of major investment projects, including a more appropriate standard of adjudicating issues in DEC permit hearings; assuring that regulatory timetables for project reviews are adhered to; creating an expedited process for applications that meet certain criteria (e.g., replacement projects, pollution reduction, etc.); and integrating coastal zone reviews with other state environmental review requirements.

68)  We embrace and support the aims and recommendations of the Blueprint for the BlueLine, a consensus agenda of the Adirondack Common Ground Alliance.

69)  We support the implementation of LNG storage rules so as to support and enable enhanced use of LNG in the North Country, particularly for business and industrial purposes.

70)  We support permanent extension of the state’s brownfield remediation and redevelopment tax credits; reform of the program to include superfund and RCRA sites; and expediting the review and approval of remediation projects.

71)  We oppose out-of-network health insurance reimbursements mandates.

72)  We call for state investment in needed upgrades of the Olympic sports venues in the Lake Placid area.

73)  We support the enactment as needed in the future of multi-year capital plans for the MTA, which are essential to continued business opportunities for our region’s transportation equipment companies.

74)  We oppose the use of “Wage Boards” to enact minimum wage increases.

75)  In the context of state initiatives to permit farm based brewing if all ingredients are New York sourced, we are opposed to any potential extension of this that might require malting to have been performed in state.

76)  We oppose further increases in state goals for MWBE contracting, noting that it is generally impossible currently to meet new goals from North Country MWBE businesses if at all. We encourage the state to insure that MWBE guidelines are realistic, attainable, and that waivers are fairly and quickly provided as needed. We further encourage differentiation of goals in accord with the economic development region a state grant or project is located within.

77)  We support reforms to ensure that "prevailing wage" determinations accurately reflect regional private sector wage levels.

78)  We support lowering the thresholds for Excelsior Jobs program "regionally significant manufacturing projects" to creation of 10 jobs and capital investment of $1 million or more (current thresholds are 50 new jobs and $5 million investment).

79)  We support expansion of the NYS P-TECH program, and support codification of the program in statute.

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