New York State
As of June 21, 2019, the New York State legislature has effectively ended the session while addressing or trying to address many issues identified in the 2018 elections. This year was particularly challenging given that this is the first Session where both houses are now firmly controlled by a united Democratic majority, notable segments of which have shown suspicion and outright hostility to business interests. While the Governor remains a moderate buffer on some issues, that is not always the case. ACEC New York continues to partner with several other associations to consider all options moving forward to promote and safeguard our issues.
ACEC New York’s government affairs and lobbying efforts have been active, with a continued presence in the Capitol through the final days and hours of Session meeting with legislators and advocating for our industry’s positions on a host of key industry issues including late-breaking bills.
MWBE Reauthorization: The Senate and Assembly passed legislation (A8414 – Bichotte / S6575 – Sanders) that will renew the State’s MWBE program (Executive Law Article 15A) through 2024. The bill, introduced on June 16 advanced through the committee process at breakneck speed and was passed by both houses on June 19. While much of the bill is an extension and reauthorization, it makes a number of other changes that are summarized in the sponsor’s memo. Over the course of the year, ACEC New York leadership met with legislators and key staff to share our Association’s history of support for Article 15A and our position on various proposals to amend the program. In these conversations, we stood firm in our insistence that any future iteration of the program be guided by reasonableness and shaped by objective industry data. We also focused on streamlining compliance and reducing bureaucratic hurdles to success.
NYC Design-Build: Late on June 19, a bill (A7636B – Braunstein / S6293A – Comrie) passed both houses that give a qualified expansion of New York City’s design-build authority to the NYCDDC, the NYCDEP, the NYCDOT, NYC Parks, the NYC Health and Hospitals corporation, the NYCSCA and the NYC Housing Authority. The bill grants these entities the ability to use design-build procurement on projects with an estimated cost of not less than $10 Million and that are undertaken with a project labor agreement.A provision requiring that all quality assurance and construction inspection work be done by public employees was pulled from the bill at our urging.
DPC ESOP Expansion: ACEC New York’s efforts to expand ESOP ownership of DPC engineering firms continues to find success in the State Senate. The bill passed in March. ACEC New York staff and lobbyists continue to meet with and Assembly Higher Education staff to explain the nuances and operation of the bill, and show the concept’s benefits.
Grandfather firm Geology: ACEC New York’s legislative agenda included legislation resolving an unintended outcome of the 2014 bill granting geologists professional licensure. Currently, unlike firms organized under forms such as DPC or P.C., grandfathered engineering firms (INCs) are unable to provide geology services, despite the presence of licensed professional eologists on staff. This has caused problems as state agencies have recently issued geology procurements for services that are identical with geotechnical engineering and were previously considered engineering. Firms that have been the agency’s traditional partners are no longer able to reply to these procurements depriving both of important opportunities. Legislation (S6084 – Stavisky / A 7865 – Engelbright) was introduced and seeks to remedy this issue. The bill passed the Senate, but remains in Assembly Higher Education.
Damages for Delay: Legislation (A2040A – Kim / S5933A – Comrie) authorizing contractors to recover reasonable damages for delay under limited circumstances passed the Senate and the Assembly. This version of the bill is significantly revised from prior years’ versions and removes troublesome wording that had the potential to implicate design professionals in delay claims. The bill also states that design professionals are among those able to assert delay claims.
Cost-Benefit: The bill (A5459 – Bronson / S6048 – Breslin) that seeks to require State Agencies to conduct a cost-benefit analysis before procuring consultant services over $750,000 once again passed both houses. This version of the bill is nearly identical to the version that passed last year and was vetoed by Governor Cuomo. Our government affairs staff is preparing outreach to the Governor’s office to again remind them of the profoundly harmful public policy implications of this legislation.
Contractor Spyware: ACEC New York became aware of legislation (S.5398 - Savino) that sought to mandate the installation of software on state contract holders’ computers that would capture keystrokes, mouse movement and screenshots. This was intended to verify billing but creates significant personal privacy and data security loopholes, as well as failing to accurately capture the value of a consulting engineer’s work on a State contract. Our Government Relations staff assembled a coalition of stakeholders in similarly-situated industries to deliver testimony on the harmful nature of this software. The bill remains in the Senate Finance committee, and does not have an Assembly companion.
Additional Funding – Late on June 20, legislation (S6616 – Krueger / A8434 – Weinstein) was introduced to amend the Capital Projects budget. Among the changes made, it restores $65 million dollars to the Extreme Winter Recovery program for local road and bridge projects. The bill also appropriates $100 million dollars to Lake Ontario resiliency, as well as $365 million in additional money the State and Municipal Facilities program.
Other Issues – Among other issues being tracked by the Association, the much-discussed prevailing wage expansion did not make its way into the flurry of last-minute bills.
2019 Federal PAC. ACEC New York has raised $29,485 of our $90,000 goal. Thank you to our donors to date. Look for information on upcoming PAC fundraising events and visit the ACEC PAC webpage for more ways to give. For more information on donations, or to make a donation to the PAC, contact NYS Director of Government Relations Campbell Wallace at firstname.lastname@example.org.
New York City
DOB finalizes Rules Governing Electrical Work, Including Changes Requested by ACEC New York. The NYC Department of Buildings (DOB) finalized new Rules Governing Electrical Work on June 11. The rules will be effective as of July 7, 2019. Immediately after the effective date, electrical plans can be submitted for review by email, but DOB’s long-term plan is to move the submission process to DOB NOW. A Service Notice with the new procedures is available on the Electrical Advisory Board webpage. ACEC New York’s Electrical Code Committee engaged with DOB for more than a year seeking modifications to the new rule prior to its finalization. We are pleased to report DOB made key changes requested by our members. Thanks to the Committee for persistent efforts and effective advocacy.
City Council hearing on NYC MWBE bills. The City Council Contracts Committee held a hearing on four MWBE-related bills on June 20. One bill, Intro. 1293, proposes updating MWBE participation goals for all minority groups on City contracts. ACEC New York’s Municipal Affairs Counsel, Ken Fisher (Cozen O’Conner), and Metro Region Chair Vicki Arbitrio (Gilsanz Murray Steficek) testified on behalf of the association at the hearing. The full text of each bill and the association’s testimony are available on our website.
City Council approves regulation on “Mechanical Voids” in Residential Towers. On May 29, the City Council approved a Zoning Text Amendment regulating the height of “Mechanical Voids” in residential towers. The new rule sets a 25’ height limit on mechanical floors in new residential buildings. Floor heights beyond this will count the mechanical space toward floor area. This does not prohibit larger mechanical spaces; rather, it means that any additional volume will be charged to the permitted development rights. ACEC New York testified at the City Council hearing on this proposal in April.
Contractor Spyware. Legislation (Intro. 1602) has been introduced in the City Council that would appoint a task force to study the use of the Contractor Spyware software discussed above.We have already engaged several members of the Council and will be providing additional information regarding our opposition.
New York City PAC Update. To date, 77 members from 32 firms have contributed $12,550 to the NYC PAC. We thank our contributors! The NYC PAC is an important tool in ACEC New York’s advocacy efforts on City-issues that impact our member firms. Please consider making a contribution by calling Bill Murray, NYC Director of Government Relations, at 212-682-6336 to contribute via credit card or by mailing a check, payable to “ACEC New York City PAC,” to our office.