Sunday, August 30, 2009

Paterson decides on over 80 bills

Buffalo Business First reported that Gov. David Paterson signed or vetoed more than 80 bills over the course of this week—and many of them will impact business.

In all, Paterson approved 68 bills. He also vetoed 14 bills that would have required $5.4 million in state spending, citing the need to cut state spending while the state must erase at least a $2.1 billion budget deficit.

“We will not reach that destination [a balanced budget] by undertaking expenditures that are not absolutely necessary,” Paterson said in one veto statement.

Among the business-related bills that Paterson signed into law are ones that:
• require energy companies seeking to build new electric transmission plants to pay fees of up to $450,000 to help communities have their voices heard in the siting process. The law will help communities and municipalities, “many of which are strapped for cash and are currently unable to hire the experts necessary to intervene effectively [in the siting process],” the bill’s sponsors said.
• enable the state Department of Labor to bring court actions against employers to collect underpayment of wages and other damages on behalf of employees.
Under the bill, for the first time, such action can now be taken against partnerships and limited liability companies, which are becoming more popular forms of starting a business. The bill also raises the minimum possible civil penalty that employers face for wage law violations from $200 to $1,000. The maximum penalty is now $10,000, five times its previous size.
• authorize state regional economic development offices to help small- and medium-sized businesses comply with state and federal regulations and permitting processes
• require most state agencies and public authorities to create a “mentor-protege” program where experienced state contractors assist “emerging small, minority- or woman-owned businesses.”
• expand membership on state advisory boards for small businesses and minority- or woman-owned businesses. The bill also gives the boards more power to enable companies to access state assistance programs.

In addition, Paterson signed a law banning drivers from texting or e-mailing from a portable electronic device while they are driving.

Paterson also vetoed 14 bills, including one that would have created a fund to boost early-stage commercialization of new technologies.

Under the bill, the New York State Foundation for Science, Technology and Innovation (known as NYSTAR) would have had to give out awards to academic institutions, regional technology development corporations and other entities for such work. Each award would have been worth between $500,000 and $1 million.

The bill’s sponsors said the commercialization work “could potentially have a positive impact on existing companies or lead to the formation of new companies in New York.” Paterson, however, vetoed the bill, citing the state’s budget deficit.

Kathryn Wylde, president and CEO of The Partnership for New York City, praised the veto. The nonprofit group is comprised of a 200 CEOs from corporate, investment and entrepreneurial firms downstate.

“This bill would have committed the state to allocate funds to new business development activities that are more appropriately carried out by expert investors in the private sector,” Wylde said. “The state does not have the resources to fund discretionary programs. The best way for New York state to encourage economic growth and job creation is through the reduction of taxes.”

State legislators are expected to hold a special session in Albany next month to attempt to erase the projected $2.1 billion budget deficit. Paterson has previously said he intends to propose a budget-balancing plan that does not include new or higher taxes and fees.
Legislators can also try to override the vetoes.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Small Business Administration Offers YouTube Channel

The Central NY Business Journal reported that the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) today announced the launch of its channel on YouTube, the popular video-sharing Web site."

With millions of visitors, most of them under 35, YouTube offers a prime opportunity to use current technology and the appeal of a popular online platform to further promote the agency's programs and services," SBA Administrator Karen Mills said in a news release.

The SBA hopes to reach this audience with its message of entrepreneurship, the importance of small business to the nation's economy, and information on the agency's programs and services.

The SBA YouTube channel ( debuted with a 60-second introduction to the agency, its programs and services, and a 10-part "Delivering Success" series co-produced with the U.S. Postal Service.

Future content will cover how small businesses can take advantage of the loan programs in the economic-stimulus package, government-contracting opportunities, exporting to increase market share, and counseling and training on how to start and grow a small business, according to the agency.

Monday, August 24, 2009

NYS Arts Update: Budget Issues Ahead

There is a $2.1 billion hole in the current NYS budget and word has it that the state will have a 'negative cash flow' around November!!The $2.1 billion shortfall in NYS's budget is a result of plummeting sales and income tax receipts, according to the Division of the Budget. In response, the Governor has said that further action is needed to control spending. Sound familiar? Expect this to be the precursor to mid-year budget cuts. Again.We anticipate that the Legislature will convene in SEPTEMBER to discuss budget amendments (read "cuts") to the current State budget.

WHAT CAN WE DO? Start setting up appointments NOW to meet with your legislators at home right after Labor Day. Discuss the impact of the arts in your community. You know the drill: letters, brochures, stories that tug at the heart and at the economic epicenter of our communities. Need your legislator's contact information?

NYS ARTS will begin our online campaigns after Labor watch your inbox for action items in our Online Advocacy Center.

Although lawmakers cut more than $17 billion to produce the current FY 09-10 $131.8 billion NYS budget, it appears clear that new spending cuts-or new revenue-will be needed.

New revenue is not happening since: a)Income tax collections already dropped 35% in the first quarter of the 2009-10 fiscal year. The drop was $584 million more than had been projected in May; b) Sales tax collections fell 6%. That was $159 million less than expected; c) Wages across the state are projected to fall 4.8% in 2009, the largest drop ever recorded. This will produce a ripple effect that will affect all of the state's revenue sources now and over the next four years; d) Other reductions and increased public-assistance costs have contributed to the gap.

And these are all first quarter reports. One must assume that the second quarter reports will look gloomier.

The budget deficit is projected to grow to $4.6 billion in 2010-11. This is an increase of $2.2 billion from the estimate in May. It is expected to reach a cumulative $38.2 billion over the next four years. And the state's general fund may be in negative cash flow by November or December, requiring it to borrow from other state funds.

And here is the latest salvo:As Voter Disgust With Albany Rises, So Do Calls for a New Constitution (NY Times)

Now in the weeks since a partisan power struggle in the State Senate brought New York's government to new heights of chaos, a growing chorus is calling for a more radical approach: a constitutional convention to rewrite the state's very political DNA.
Read more here.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Dear Nonprofit Leader,

I write to urge you to check out the following blog post. You know I have never done this before, so it must be important. And it is.

As nonprofits across the country have been going to our federal officials to discuss how their health care reform plans affect nonprofits, we keep hearing government officials say things like: "Gee, we hadn't thought about nonprofits as employers."

So, in this blog column, the President of the National Council of Nonprofits points out how nonprofits keep being taken for granted and urges nonprofits to "beat the drum" to "remind government that we exist, and we exist at a scale that should not and cannot be ignored any longer."

In this Great Recession, our nonprofits are being asked to meet increasing community needs with decreasing resources - while also paying escalating costs, such as constantly increasing health insurance premiums. As the blog column warns: that "math just doesn't work."

If you agree that our government officials shouldn't ignore, overlook, or forget about nonprofits, then please join me and the New York Council of Nonprofits by contacting our federal officials to urge them to respect the more than 60,000 nonprofits in New York by including us in health care reform in a meaningful way.

Let's all "pick up a drum" and start making some noise, telling our stories about how New York's nonprofits add real value to local communities and individual lives every single day. Otherwise, we will be forgotten - which would be "unfair and unsafe to those depending on services we deliver and the benefits we provide."

Contact Your Senators:
Gillibrand, Kirsten E. 478 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington DC, 20510(202) 224-4451
Contact Senator Gillibrand Now.

Schumer, Charles E. 313 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington DC, 20510(202) 224-6542
Contact Senator Schumer Now.
Click here for your members of Congress

Thank you again for the work that you do and for raising your voice on behalf of our nonprofit community here in New York.
Doug Sauer, CEO
New York Council of Nonprofits, Inc.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Most New Yorkers back health-care reform in Siena survey

The Central NY Business Journal reported that nearly three-quarters of New Yorkers believe health-care reform is long overdue, but respondents are split over whether current proposals will adequately address the problem.

That's according to a special survey on health care and personal finances the Siena (College) Research Institute (SRI) released today.

When asked to consider the current proposals, 35 percent of respondents supported the plan, 26 percent opposed it, and 39 percent said they needed more information.

In the survey, SRI asked respondents to consider the effect of a government insurance option on private insurers, the potential impact on senior citizens, and the affordability and quality of reform based on current proposals.

Nearly 80 percent of respondents have either been paying a great deal or some attention to the national debate over health-care reform, according to SRI.

At the same time, the survey's 538 respondents continued having concerns over the economy.
One of every seven New York households saw a family member lose a job or had the need for their work eliminated over the last six months, the survey found.

In addition, less than 40 percent of state residents have been able to save money for retirement over the last six months, and only 41 percent have a savings account with enough money to pay household expenses for six months, according to SRI.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Senate and House Divergence in FY2010 Appropriations for Nonprofits

Rick Cohen, the Nonprofit Quarterly’s national correspondent, offers the following Report:

Appropriations start in the House of Representatives, but require action from the Senate as well in order to pass a budget. The Senate’s Committee on Appropriations started to make some budget headway just this past week, passing a number of bills that will require negotiations and blending with their House Appropriations counterparts in conference committee.

Where is the Senate’s attention on issues of concern to the programs and finances of the nonprofit sector (knowing full well that nonprofits should be attentive to and involved in every aspect of federal government budgetary matters, not just those that lead to money filling nonprofit coffers)?

Here is the beginning of a budgetary travelogue of the recommendations from Senate appropriators:
Corporation for National and Community Service: The House appropriators cited problems with the CNCS management to cut $90 million from the White House budget recommendation, zero out the Volunteer Generation Fund, and slice $15 million from the Social Innovation Fund. The Senate doesn’t agree. It actually added $8 million onto the Corporation’s budget, perhaps reflecting that the Serve America Act which will greatly expand community service programs in this agency had its genesis with national profile bipartisan support from sponsors Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT), the former seriously ill after being diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor in 2008. The Senate has the full $50 million in its recommendations for the Social Innovation Fund and $8 million for the Volunteer Generation Fund. At least in the formal committee text of the appropriations report, there is not a mention of managerial issues within the Corporation or reference to any of the findings of the Inspector General.

Read the rest of the detailed Cohen Report here.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

NY lawmakers use campaign money as personal piggybanks

The Journal News reported on politicians often unrestricted use of their campaign money, including highlighting donations to nonprofits. As the article related:

What does spending $861 on hot sauce or $18,750 on a 2009 Cadillac sedan have to do with serving in the state Legislature?

For Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo, D-Binghamton, her office explained that she dipped into her campaign account to purchase personalized bottles of Hot Shots "Road Kill" sauce to give as party favors to supporters last month.

And Sen. James Alesi, R-Perinton, whose district covers a large part of Monroe County, said he does a lot of driving in the course of his work. Thus he chose to use campaign money to pay for some of the cost of his new Cadillac.

"I put about 40,000 miles a year on my car traveling around the district," Alesi explained.

Lupardo holds an annual "Blues and Barbecue" fundraiser that draws several hundred people, so "she had wanted to do something to just give back to the supporters," aide Michael Kennerknecht said of the sauce from Hot Shots of Charlotte, N.C.

From leasing cars and paying for airline flights to sponsoring Little League teams and contributing to charities for cancer victims, New York's election laws give lawmakers plenty of leeway on how they can spend their war chests.

Former Senate Republican Leader Joseph Bruno, who resigned last year and is battling federal corruption charges, used $441,373 from his campaign coffers to pay legal bills between January and the end of June. Bruno once bought a pool cover, saying it was related to his political duties because he regularly entertained.

Good-government groups have been pushing for stronger laws on the use of campaign contributions. New York law prohibits using the money for things that are not related to a political campaign or holding a public office.

But it is "too vague to provide any meaningful restraint," according to a report earlier this year by watchdog organizations.

The groups are proposing to restrict spending to uses that promote a candidate's election, and to ban expenditures like country club dues, legal fees, utility payments and rent. New York has among the weakest campaign finance laws in the country, advocates said. Read more here.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Future Generation Looks Bright for Nonprofits

During a recent project in the Capital Region, I met a high school student, Travon Jackson, volunteering with a local historical society. He and a friend have outlined an idea for a grassroots effort in the community focused on education and accessibility. He is looking for guidance and ideas on how to make this concept a reality. Share your feedback here or feel free to e-mail him directly. We can only hope that more students take an interest in the nonprofit sector and work to improve our communities with similar ideas.

The Idea: A non-profit organization dedicated to furthering the intellectual depth of the community and encouraging an enthusiasm for knowledge.

Our Niche: A community-minded organization that provides an intellectually and socially stimulating environment at minimal public expense.

What makes us unique?
Location in the community we hope to serve
  • Many colleges and universities offer free courses online in the form of pod casts, lectures, tutorials and complete online classes. Most of these online methods, while beneficial to individuals, have no relation to the community and provide little opportunity for social interaction.

Non-Profit Motivation

  • Without the element of profit, our motivation comes solely from genuine concern for the community and our efforts can be directed -towards bettering the community instead of bettering our annual revenue.

Future Possibilities:

  • Partnerships with local universities for student teaching credit.
  • Class instruction by local volunteers, educators with degrees.
  • Classes taught in Morning, Afternoon and Evening time slots.

We want to provide accessible education in subjects relevant to young or undereducated individuals. With genuine care for the community, desire to better others and an open-minded approach to education we want to be a positive influence that helps to empower the community.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Council Services Plus, the insurance brokerage of the NY Council of Nonprofits, informs nonprofits that Governor David Paterson has signed 3 of his healthcare reform proposals into law:

S.5471 (Breslin) / A.8400 (Peoples) - extends state mini-COBRA from 18 to 36 months. Effective date is July 1, 2009 and shall apply to all policies and contracts of insurance issued, renewed, modified, altered or amended on or after such date.

S.6030 (Breslin) / A.9038 (Morelle) - allows for dependent care coverage of children up to 29 years of age. Effective date is September 1, 2009 and shall apply to all policies and contracts of insurance issued, renewed, modified, altered or amended on or after such date.

S.5472-A (Breslin) / A.8402-A (Morelle) - HMO reform act. Various effective dates depending upon the specific provision of the bill.

Stay informed about insurance developments or receive assistance with your insurance needs from Council Services Plus. Contact them at (877) 501-4CSP or by e-mail.