The Niagara County Builders Association welcomed six legislators to its January meeting to discuss the need for state legislative action to make it easier for contractors and developers to do business in New York. In attendance were state senators George Maziarz (62nd District) and Mark Grisanti (60th District), and Assembly members Robin Schimminger (District 140), John Ceretto (District 138), Ray Walter (District 148) and Jane Corwin (District 142). All participated with NCBA members in a lively session at the Hideaway Grill in North Tonawanda.
Noteworthy was lengthy discussion about changes to state Labor Law 240/241, commonly known as "the Scaffold Law." Association members told legislators the law was an effective remedy for workplace injuries when it was established more than 125 years ago, but, with OSHA regulations and workers compensation now in place, it is not as necessary.
"One of the key problems with the law is that courts in the state have redefined eligibility and greatly expanded the types of accidents which qualify under the law," said NCBA Executive Officer Jerry O'Neill. "These changes drastically increase contractor and property owner liability."
He said courts have also chosen to exclude worker negligence as a defense. NCBA members told the legislators that costs for claims and insurance premiums significantly increase their costs, and therefore the customer's price of any construction or renovation project. They added that losses due to court settlements have driven many reputable contractors out of business.
Schimminger responded he has sponsored legislation to amend the law, and all legislators present voiced their support of the NCBA's efforts.
NCBA Vice President Kristin Savard discussed another issue of concern for developers and builders. She said the state's Department of Environmental Conservation has disrupted construction by implementing new, stricter regulations for storm water drainage.
"The new regulations do not account for the fact that soil conditions in New York differ widely across the state," Savard said. "The new requirements have shut down some local developments to the extent that they may lose the entire 2012 construction season, and the DEC has not been open to change."
NCBA members and visiting legislators promised to continue their dialogue on these issues.