NYSPEC Agenda

Legislative Agenda

NYSPEC 2012 LEGISLATIVE AGENDA

 

NYSPEC Supports:

 

Workers’ Compensation Reform

The Workers’ Compensation system does not meet the needs of the workforce. It is essential that diagnostic tests be performed in a timely basis so that treatment can result in a worker being restored to health and returned to the workforce. The time frame promulgated in Section 71 of the Civil Service law needs to be increased to two years. We are supporting the following:

  1. Any bill that changes the payment structure to injured workers from incremental payments to one lump sum payment. Historically, “Schedule Loss of Use” awards were in fact in one lump sum. However, the NYS Court of Appeals concluded that such payments contravened the specific language of the Workers’ Compensation Law.
  2. Support a bill to include those who are permanently and totally disabled and who are also eligible for Social Security Disability benefits. The purpose of this bill is to create a presumption of permanent total disability for those claimants who are subsequently also found eligible for Social Security Disability benefits. It should be noted that it is presently very common for injured workers to be found totally disabled by Social Security yet only partially disabled by the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board.
  3. Expansion of World Trade Center Rescue, Recovery and Cleanup Operations Benefits to those who “repaired, cleaned or rehabilitated vehicles or equipment, including emergency vehicle radio equipment owned by the City of New York, that were contaminated by debris in the World Trade Center site, regardless of whether the work was performed within the defined WTC site, provided such work was performed prior to completion of the decontamination of such vehicles or equipment. The purpose of this amendment is to afford coverage to those workers who were responsible for the cleanup and rehabilitation of vehicles from the WTC site and cleaned off premises. Numerous workers were exposed to contaminated debris and are not entitled to benefits. We believe that the failure to include these workers was an oversight.


Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA)

The New York State Public Employee Conference is very appreciative and applauds the efforts of both Houses of the Legislature and the Governor in providing a permanent Cost of Living Adjustment for our retirees. However, we submit that further legislation is needed to make improvements. We seek legislation to grant a “Catch-up” for all those individuals who retired prior to 1966. Spouses of deceased retirees currently receive 50%. That should be increased to 100%. The cap should also be increased from $18,000 to $25,000, and eligibility should be changed from age 62 and retired for five years, to age 55 and retired for five years.

Pension Re-Openers

Remedial action is needed, since many public servants have been wrongfully denied their rightful retirement benefits. Such denial causes unreasonable hardships as retirees progress further into their retirement years. NYSPEC seeks legislation that will revive the cause of action for those members who took the necessary steps to qualify for retroactive membership, but were denied, and failed to bring action within the time allowed by law, or whose case was dismissed without prejudice or not decided upon the merits.

Ensuring Safe Nurse Staffing

Enactment of legislation is urgently needed to ensure that patients receive quality health care services. Numerous research studies and consumer satisfaction polls clearly show a strong relationship between RN staffing and quality of care. New York’s workforce is entitled to the best health care services, and that must include an optimal nurse-to-patient ratio. Minimum safe staffing levels must be regulated to protect the public from harm. Requiring safe staffing would prohibit employers from using mandatory overtime as a nurse staffing solution other than in defined emergencies.

Retiree Health Benefits Guarantee

Subject to the provisions of any general, specific, or local law, charter, code, ordinance, resolution, rule, regulation or contractual agreement, and to the extent not inconsistent therewith, any legislation that will guarantee health benefits for Public Employees who retire and that guarantees the continuation of existing benefits for those who have already retired.

Military Buyback for Veterans

The Veteran’s Service Credit Law of 2000 permits active public employees who served in the military during specific military conflicts to purchase up to three years of service credit toward retirement. This is the first opportunity veterans have had to purchase their military service time since 1976. Many veterans did not qualify for that 1976 buyback law. Some of them were just entering public service and in the ensuing 30 years, many of them provided years of dedicated public service and retired without the ability to add military credit to their retirement. Current employees now have that ability. It is unfair to ignore the service that was provided by veterans to our state and country. Legislation is needed to overcome and remedy this injustice by providing these retired veterans with a comparable supplemental military allowance. Further, the requirement for expeditionary medals should be eliminated for those members who served during the required conflict periods.

Heart Bill Clarification

This measure clarifies presumptions pertaining to heart-related disabilities or deaths suffered by members of the New York State and Local Police and Fire Retirement System, and the New York State and Local Employees’ Retirement System. Maintains that a presumption exists that the injury was incurred in the performance of the victim’s duties and was the natural and proximate result of an accident.

Competitive Exams for Appointments and Promotions

For more than a century, the public’s confidence in our democratic form of government has been reinforced when only the most qualified candidates having an equal opportunity to compete are appointed and promoted objectively to the public service. New York State’s Constitution Article V, Section 6 requires that appointments and promotions to the public service be made in accordance with merit and fitness and: “as far as practicable, by examination which, as practicable, shall be competitive;...”

 

History has shown and we strongly believe that competitive examinations are practicable, Therefore, The New York State Public Employee Conference supports the enforcement of this enduring constitutional provision as the cornerstone for the selection of qualified individuals in the public service. Furthermore, we oppose any attempts to circumvent, diminish, or undermine the full enforcement of Civil Service Law.

 

Independent Hearing Officer

 

Under Section 75 of the current Civil Service Law, a public employee facing disciplinary action appears before a hearing officer selected by the employer. With the employer then imposing possible sanctions, the employer has undue influence over all phases of the hearing. The current procedure has clear imbalances favoring the employer and is in contrast to basic American jurisprudence. NYSPEC has drafted legislation to require the appointment of an independent hearing officer for those cases where an employee faces dismissal. The hearing officer would render a binding decision. Every public employee should have the right to a fair, neutral hearing when his/her career is threatened. This longstanding inequity should be corrected in 2009.

 

Retirement for State University Police Officers

 

This legislation would allow State University Police Officers to transfer into the Police and Fire Retirement System.

 

Tier Equity

 

  • Tier III Line of Duty Disability Benefits

Line of Duty Benefits should be equal to that of Tier II for police and  fire members.

 

There are several proposals before the Legislature that would provide some type of tier equity for many of our members.

  • Tier III and IV Additional Retirement Benefits

Legislation that would provide credit upon retirement to Tier III or  Tier IV members who had contributed beyond 10 years of service.

  • Allow Inclusion of Credit for Accumulated Vacation Time

Legislation to allow all members of Tier I and Tier II to include up to  30 days of unused, accumulated vacation time in the calculation of  final average salary. (Already included for Tier III and Tier IV).

  • Elimination of Caps or Limitations

Any cap or limitation on earning of service credit affecting any public  employee should be eliminated.

 

It is our intention to review all proposals and to support the

appropriate measures.

 

Permanent Heart Bill

 

Several decades ago, the “heart bill” was passed as a temporary law to provide police officers and firefighters assistance in the event their employment was disrupted as a result of heart disease. Physical evidence clearly indicates that not only police officers and firefighters, but other public employees, because of the pressure and stress of their jobs, suffer heart disease at a higher rate than the general public, and the Legislature has acknowledged this with the addition of correction officers, EMTs, sanitation workers and court officers to the heart bill. The time has come to make the heart bill permanent, and to include other classifications that are similarly situated.

 

Revision of the Taylor Law

 

The underlying tenet of the Taylor Law is that all parties are to negotiate in good faith. Dragging out contract negotiations, sometimes for many years after the expiration of a contract, is financially harmful to public employees and their families. It also can cause severely low morale. Currently the law is weighted heavily in favor of the employer, providing a no-strike clause with severe financial penalties and loss of dues check off. Revisions need to be made to level the playing field.

 

Statewide Variable Supplements Fund

 

We seek to introduce and promote legislation that will provide all members who are employed by state and local governments, and who are members of a public retirement system who retire for service, with a benefit that is comparable to the so-called “Variable Supplements Fund” that is received by certain uniformed forces of the City of New York.

 

Pensions Guarantee

 

Pensions for public employees must be guaranteed.

  • No future diminution of sufficient funding and no “raids” on pension systems’ funds for any reasons should be allowed. The current climate of elimination or diminishment of pensions in the private sector is deplorable, and can be blamed solely on the insufficient funding and poor management of those private pension plans. NYSPEC needs the help of the Legislature in monitoring and ensuring these guarantees, and supports efforts to expand Martin Act protections to public employee systems. This bill “Authorizes a public retirement system, as defined in Section 501 of the Retirement and Social Security Law, mutual fund, or other institutional investor to bring actions for damages sustained due to the commission of certain prohibited and criminal acts in violation of the Martin Act (Fraudulent Practice in Respect to Stocks, Bonds and Other Securities).”
  • Once a public employee has vested rights in a pension system, that pension must be guaranteed.

 

“211” Waivers

 

Waivers for continuing employment of public employees in the public sector should be treated in a fashion that addresses the needs of the specific employment situation, and does not inhibit advancement from within.

 

Fiscal Notes

 

The ability to obtain fiscal notes with respect to pension legislation affecting NYC employees must be addressed.

 

COBRA

 

All public employees’ survivors should be permitted to purchase COBRA at the same rates as the survivors of Uniformed Services’ employees.

 

Upholding PERB Decisions

 

Employers must be required to abide by PERB decisions regardless of their claim of ability to pay.

 

Limitation on Disciplinary Suspension of Public Employees

 

All public employees should be protected by Section 75 of the Civil Service Law, which limits disciplinary suspensions to 30 days.

 

Ensure Adequate Supervisory Staffing for Emergency Services

 

Enactment of legislation is urgently needed to ensure that all cities, counties, and municipalities provide adequate staffing levels of supervision for emergency services such as police, fire, and EMS for the purpose of maintaining span of control during emergencies and the daily operations of emergency services.

 

NYSPEC Opposes:

  • Any Reduction in Pension Benefits for Public Employees
  • Constitutional Convention — Any diminution of benefits guaranteed by the NYS Constitution should not be considered. The existing 20-year recurrence period is sufficient to address issues of major concerns to the electorate. Conducting a Constitutional Convention earlier, simply to mollify those who contend that such a convention would fix all the state’s problems, is unfair to all members of our citizenry, past, present and future.
  • Any Legislative Attempt to Undermine Collective Bargaining and the Existing Binding Arbitration Process
  • Residency Requirements and/or Credits for Public Employees
  • Inappropriate Consolidation of Services
  • Privatization
  • Any Diminishment of Health Insurance Benefits for our Retirees
  • Any Attempt to Re-Introduce a Residency Tax on Employees of the City of New York
  • Any Commuter Tax on Employees of the City of New York, including the “1127” Tax