covid19

NO RELIEF IN SIGHT FROM ALBANY

By Hank Kita, STA Executive Director

There does not appear to be much relief coming from Albany for construction contractors, whether they be general contractors, construction managers, or subcontractors.  There is little doubt that the construction industry is overregulated and underappreciated by the public sector here in New York.  Contractors are treated by Albany and state agencies as little more than a commodity.

Attempts by the construction industry in recent years to mitigate the punitive approach to contractors by the public sector, have fallen on deaf ears.  In Albany, the Governor has rejected construction industry legislative efforts towards a more fair and equitable public procurement process by vetoing bills sponsored by or advocated for by the STA and other construction industry associations in areas such as onerous contract clauses, delay damages, and the definition of substantial completion.

To make matters worse, the Governor’s Office last year enacted Executive Order 192 which allows state agencies to debar contractors from doing public work in New York if they run afoul of one public agency during their work on a project.  This Executive Order was carried forward further by the MTA in late 2019 with onerous and one-sided debarment regulations that are about to be made “permanent” by that quasi state agency.

Compounding the plight of contractors are “over the top” provisions in the State’s recent MWBE Law (Article 15-A) enacted in Albany last year.  Contracting and workforce diversity goals are concerning at this point as the Albany administration drafts regulations and looks to prescribe penalties for contractors who “slip up” in this area.

The failure of the State Legislature to enact any reform of Scaffold Law 240-241 has created a deepening insurance crisis in the New York construction industry.  It has become ever more difficult for contractors to obtain insurance as insurers abandon the construction industry market in New York State.  The failure in Albany to reform this 19th century law unique only to New York, has resulted in exponential increases in insurance premiums for contractors which in turn drive up the cost of construction.  Efforts to make progress in this area with the Legislature have been stymied by special interests such as the Trial Lawyers lobby which continues to fight to maintain the status quo of the “cash cow” that this legislation has become for them.

With all of this said, it is high time for the construction industry contractor associations to band together and find common ground to propose positive contractor legislation or together fight against or advocate for reform of onerous legislation which needlessly punishes contractors and continually drives up the cost of construction year in and year out here in New York.  For too long, parochial differences and disputes among contractor associations and industry advocates have allowed the public sector to gain the upper hand in achieving overregulation and a “gotcha” attitude in the public procurement and project implementation processes.  It is time for internal industry differences to be left at the door and for the industry associations to begin to work together on legislation which benefits the various sectors of the construction contractor community.

The STA will do its part in trying to be inclusive with other associations with our legislative agenda and industry advocacy efforts.  We will work in 2020 in trying raise contractor association awareness on those issues on which we can work together and develop an agenda that takes the fight to our appointed and elected officials in making life better for our contractor members.  United, construction contractors might just be able to make some progress on some of the issues cited above.  If we remain divided and fragmented, we can expect more of the same dismissive attitude from Albany where the interests of construction contractors are concerned.  Look for more information in the future from the STA in this regard in this newsletter and other communications from our office.