Scaffold Law Reform News
Donors support friends, foes in New York State legislature
- Published on 21 July 2015
In today's Times Union, Chris Bragg highlights the political giving of several high-profile donors, including the New York State Trial Lawyers Association.
Another group, LAWPAC, the political action committee of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association, seems to give absent any the ideological factors surrounding trial lawyers and tort reform that exist in other parts of the country.
While Democrats and the trial lawyers lobby are often viewed as joined at the hip, LAWPAC is a major donor to Senate Republicans in New York, giving $60,000 to the Senate GOP's campaign arm so far this year. That's more than the $27,000 gifted to the Senate Democrats by the group. "It's a trial lawyers' issue — it's not a party issue in New York," said Tom Stebbins, executive director of the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York. "They put money into everyone's account."
After former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who served as of counsel at a prominent Manhattan personal injury law firm, stepped down from the post amid corruption charges in January, proponents of repealing the state's antiquated scaffold law were newly optimistic. But the issue gained little traction during the past legislative session, and Senate Republicans, who gained a clear majority in the chamber last fall, did not pass a bill favored by reform advocates out of the Judiciary Committee.
A spokesman for the trial lawyers declined comment on their political giving.
Advocates optimistic for scaffold law reform in 2015
- Published on 10 July 2015
In today's Westchester Business Journal, Colleen Wilson highlights the renewed sense of optimism for Scaffold Law reform after the fall of Speaker Sheldon Silver.
For the last two years, as construction industry representatives and business groups have tried to ramp up the fight in Albany, the law’s defenders have kept the issue off the docket.
Reformers, however, maintain that this issue will not go away and will continue to be a costly burden for New York business.
“We’re going to continue to talk about the Scaffold Law and the real pain that it is to businesses in New York,” said John Ravitz, executive vice president and chief operating officer of The Business Council of Westchester.
A 2013 study frequently cited by groups in favor of reforming the law and conducted by the Rockefeller Institute of Government found that the Scaffold Law costs taxpayers about $785 million a year.
The burden on taxpayers has to do with the insurance premiums on public works projects. The cost of insurance for construction jobs is outrageously high, Scaffold Law reformers say, because there are not many companies in the market that want to insure construction jobs.
Scaffold Law Increases Injuries, costs billions
- Published on 05 June 2015
In today's Buffalo News, Tom Stebbins, Executive Director of the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York, writes that the data on safety shows that labor unions should support, not oppose, Scaffold Law reform.
One detail never mentioned in disingenuous defenses of New York’s odious Scaffold Law (“No need to forfeit safety to add jobs,” May 29 letter) is that New York is the only state that still has such a law. No other state imposes absolute liability on contractors who may have, to quote the state’s highest court: “had nothing to do with the plaintiff’s accident.” No other state still has such a standard because it is patently unfair, costs billions and makes work sites less safe.
The most frequently used argument against reform is the fraudulent claim that the law protects workers. If the Scaffold Law improved safety, shouldn’t New York lead in safety? We don’t. Shouldn’t other states have dramatically higher injury rates? They don’t. The Buffalo News even conducted its own investigation and found that “the Scaffold Law does nothing of note to make the state any safer for construction workers than other states.”
In fact, a study based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data found that the presence of the Scaffold Law actually increases construction injuries in New York by an estimated 667 per year.