END OF SESSION LEGISLATIVE ACTION
June 27, 2013
2013 End of Session Legislation Review
What follows is a brief reaction to the 2013 legislative session. Earlier this week, we sent you a more thorough analysis. What follows is a specific compilation of action taken by the legislature on bills of interest to NYSSBA and its members. In response to the No New Mandates! campaign, legislators passed only four minor new mandates. They affect the state and all local governments, including school districts. They are listed below under Negative Legislative Action.
This year the legislature passed the third largest aid increase in history, despite a slow economic recovery. Legislators were on time with the state budget and went around their own state aid cap to provide nearly twice the amount of promised aid. They began to address the issue of equity in their aid distribution and they avoided new cost shifts onto schools. They passed a number of very helpful bills, listed below under Positive Legislative Action. The list of poor public policy that was rejected by the legislature at NYSSBA’s urging is extensive and listed under Negative Bills Blocked by NYSSBA.
Listed below is a more complete compilation of what we successfully supported through both legislative houses, what we advanced through at least one house and what we helped prevent. This was a great year for our advocacy efforts. We maximized our effectiveness by partnering with other organizations and effectively coordinating our joint efforts. It’s a new era and NYSSBA is more visible and more influential than ever before. Advocacy has become a critically important aspect of your school board service and with your help, your NYSSBA advocacy team is shaping a better future for our students, our communities and our state.
POSITIVE LEGISLATIVE ACTION
NYSSBA Supported Legislation Passing Both Houses
Shared Purchasing of Apparatus, Materials, Equipment and Related Services
S.3766-A (Little) / A.5119-A (Russell) Passed Both Houses
- This authorizes school districts and other political subdivisions to purchase apparatus, materials, equipment and related services through contracts let by other governmental entities.
- This bill would ensure that the law provides the full extent of the expected mandate relief by allowing school districts to use contracts let by the United States of America or any agency thereof, any state or any other county, political subdivision or district therein, (including other schools) when the contract has been let either to the lowest responsible bidder or on the basis of best value.
Transparency in Health Insurance Claims Data
S.3788 (Flanagan) / A.481 (Magnarelli) Passed Both Houses
- This bill requires the civil service department to disclose to all employers participating in the New York State Health Insurance Program (NYSHIP) on a quarterly basis all information relating to that employer’s utilization of provided benefits, claims and premium payments.
- By requiring the Department of Financial Services to disclose utilization information to school districts each quarter, as well as claims and premium data, our publicly supported school districts will be better prepared to achieve greater efficiencies in the procurement of health insurance for their employees. The result will be an ability to allocate badly needed resources directly toward instruction at a time when many school districts find themselves in the unenviable position of confronting fiscal and educational challenges.
Provides for the Detailing of the Benefits and Costs of Proposed Rules in Regulatory Impact Statements
S.5553 (Valesky) / A.487-A (Magnarelli) Passed Both Houses
- This bill requires that state agency rules should be adopted through a process which provides for open and reasoned consideration of the potential costs and benefits of regulatory action, and that the law should ensure that agency assessments of the costs and the benefits of proposed rules are reasonably accurate and comprehensive.
- This bill will improve the rule-making process by providing for expanded information on the costs and benefits associated with proposed state regulations.
BOCES Contracts with Public Libraries for High-Speed Telecommunications Services
S.5706 (Valesky) / A.1398-A (Gunther) Passed Both Houses
- This bill authorizes BOCES to contract with individual public libraries or public library systems to provide high-speed telecommunications services. The contracts are subject to the approval of the Education Commissioner and will be granted provided the contracts will result in: (a) a more economical utilization of existing BOCES high-speed telecommunications services or resources than would be achieved were such contract not approved; (b) no disruption of the level of BOCES services to component school districts; and (c) a more economical utilization of existing library resources.
Renovations under the Joint Schools Construction Boards in the City of Syracuse
S.3435-C (DeFrancisco) / A.4772-C (Magnarelli) Passed Both Houses
- This bill amends current law to allow the City of Syracuse and the city school district to fund a second phase of school renovations and improvements under the direction of the Joint Schools Construction Board (JSCB). This legislation also changes the composition of the JSCB for phase II, and makes additional changes to the existing legislation to ensure a smooth transition from phase I to phase II construction.
- This bill will also allow the City of Syracuse to issue bond anticipation notes to speed up the planning and design for phase II projects. Additionally, language has been included in the bill to prevent cost overruns in phase II projects.
Temporary Alternative Methods of Financing Storm Relief Expenses
S.4729 (Rules) / A.5551 (Magnarelli) Passed Both Houses
- This bill would provide an alternative (a option, not a mandate) for financing extraordinary expenses incurred by school districts and local government from disasters. School districts may use temporary revenue anticipation notes to begin repairs and rehabilitation with the assurance that the state will pay for the interest so incurred by the school district.
Repair Reserve Funds for BOCES
S.5137 (Flanagan) / A.6435 (Jaffee) Passed Both Houses
- School districts have the authority to establish repair reserve funds; however, current law does not extend this authority to BOCES. This bill would address this problem by extending this authority to BOCES, enabling these districts to maintain property and buildings in a similar fashion to school districts.
Transportation of School Children
S.5134 (Flanagan) / A.6712 (Maisel) Passed Both Houses
- This bill is a three year extender of a law enacted in 1995, which allowed a board and a contractor to amend a contract for pupil transportation services upon a finding that amendment is needed (1) to comply with law, or (2) to enhance safety of pupil transportation. The extender expires January 1, 2017.
- This bill would permit a transportation contract to be amended pursuant to the mutual agreement of the parties to the contract and subject to the final approval of the Education Commissioner. A further stipulation provides that there be no added cost to the state caused by the benefit arising out of the contract amendment.
Committees on Preschool Special Education and the Requirement that Additional Parent Attend Meetings
S.4880-A (Felder) / A.6881-A (Benedetto) Passed Both Houses
- This bill specifies that the additional parent member on the Committee on Preschool Special Education need not be in attendance at any meeting of the committee unless specifically requested in writing by the parent at least 72 hours prior to such meeting. A similar bill was enacted last year for Committees on Special Education for school-age students.
- The elimination of automatic stipend payments and transportation reimbursements for these parent volunteers when their participation is not requested is estimated to save $42,000 annually. By streamlining the process, this bill would also result in additional operational savings.
Students and Camp Attendees to Carry and Use Topical Sunscreen Products in School
S.595-A (Gianaris) / A.2126-A (Simotas) Passed Both Houses
- This bill amends the Education law to authorize students to carry and use topical sunscreen products in schools and certain children’s camps, so long as written permission of the child’s parent is provided.
Leasing of Real Property by BOCES
S.1190 (Flanagan) / A.7197 (Paulin) Passed Both Houses
- This bill authorizes BOCES to enter into lease agreements for 20 years (currently BOCES can only enter into 10-year contracts). This would allow BOCES to avoid costs associated with short-term contracts and provide cost savings and greater flexibility for the component school districts.
Special Education Services and Programs for Preschool Children with Disabilities
S.5568-A (Flanagan) / A.7302-A (Nolan) Passed Both Houses
- This bill amends Education law in relation to audits by the Office of the State Comptroller of the expenses reported by program providers of special education services for preschool children with disabilities. The bill also directs SED to study alternative systems of reimbursement methodologies and monitoring protocols for the tuition and maintenance components of special education services programs for preschool children with disabilities.
- New York State needs to strengthen the oversight of the providers of publicly funded special education services to preschool children, and improve transparency and accountability in the administration of these services. Audits of such providers by the Office of the State Comptroller have revealed widespread fraud and abuse, and such abuse deprives children with special education needs of the public resources intended for them and threatens the existence of these special education programs. Securing appropriate pre school services better positions students entering the public schools.
Exemption for the Nanuet County School District Regarding Real Property Valuation
S.4872 (Carlucci) / A.6984 (Zebrowski) Passed Both Houses
- This bill allows the Nanuet School District to exceed the percentage of non-homestead property allowed in one or more city or town assessing units, increasing the amount of taxes levied from commercial and industrial properties.
- This in turn would help cover the costs associated with funding losses in the school district due to tax certiorari refunds and maintain education programming in the wake of such circumstances.
Negative Bills Blocked by NYSSBA
Parental Appeal of Placement and Educational Programs Provided to Children with Handicapping Conditions
S.5842-A (Felder) / A.7786-B (Weinstein) Passed Senate only
- This bill seeks to “provide for a special education placement process that will help ensure students with disabilities are placed in the appropriate programs and receive resolution of their impartial due process hearing and tuition reimbursement in a timely manner.”
- Enactment would effectuate exactly the opposite result of its intended purpose. Its terms are inconsistent with basic requirements of the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Consequently, the bill also exposes the state to the loss of critical federal funding.
Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children
S.1213 (Ranzenhofer) / A.5787 (Benedetto) Passed Senate only
- While the intent of creating greater cooperation among school districts in addressing the issue of transient students of military families is laudable, this legislation is unnecessary, wasteful, overly burdensome and cedes local authority in a manner that is not required to accomplish the stated social goal.
- The interstate compact would, among other things, create a right to effect changes in state immunization, health records, enrollment age, graduation requirements, state testing, guardianship and non-custodial parental rights, extracurricular activity eligibility and other educational issues, irrespective of the policies, procedures and laws of local school districts and the State of New York.
Information to Be Provided Prior To Hearings Held For Certain Suspended Pupils
S.5791 (Flanagan) / A.4054 (Weisenberg) Did Not Pass Either House
- This bill imposes a notification mandate by requiring school districts to notify parents, upon the child’s enrollment in public school, of their referral and evaluation rights relating to the special education process. Notification can be fulfilled by directing the parent to information located on SED’s website and providing the name and contact information for the Committee on Special Education (CSE) chairperson (or equivalent).
Release of Personally Identifiable Information
A.7872-A (Nolan) (no same as) Passed Assembly Only
A.6059-A (O’Donnell) (no same as) Passed Assembly Only
- Under A.7872-A (Nolan), parents (utilizing the form that SED is directed to develop) can specify the type of third party that is allowed or prohibited from receiving certain student information from districts/SED. By allowing parents to specify types of third parties that school districts can and cannot release information to would be a significant administrative burden for districts that already have reduced staff.
- This bill is unnecessary in that school districts and SED, and any agreement entered into between a district/SED with a third party must comply with federal FERPA and NCLB. Federal law already directs school boards to determine from a list of directory information what is allowable to be released to third parties based on the needs of its students and district.
- Similarly, A.6059-A (O’Donnell) deals specifically with limits on disclosure to contractors and consultants, as well as disclosure for purposes of academic studies, and prohibits disclosure of student personally identifiable information for commercial use. The bill is overly restrictive, including the release of transcripts to colleges and emergency calling to parents performed by a company capable of making mass calls in a short timeframe.
Standardized Testing for Students Kindergarten through Grade Two
S.4764-A (Gipson) / A.6593-A (Nolan) Passed Assembly Only
- This bill prohibits SED from administering state developed, non-diagnostic assessment exams to students enrolled in grades kindergarten through grade two.
- The substance of the proposal is educationally unsound. While the legislation is a well meaning attempt to address growing concerns about the proliferation of student assessments, it would prohibit the educational testing needed to appropriately serve and educate children, upon their introduction to school and in their first years of study.
- Local school districts, governed by locally elected community officials (informed by professional educators and the expectations of the community) are in a far superior position to assess and carry out a program of effective educational practice at each grade level.
Ignition Interlock Devices for School Buses
S.1347 (Maziarz) / A.1862 (Montesano) Did Not Pass Either House
- The bill requires every school bus that is manufactured after July 1, 2015 or scheduled for a retrofitting to be equipped with an ignition interlocking device. The bill further provides that schools boards have the discretion to provide for use of such devices in all buses. The bill provides that the devices would qualify for reimbursement via transportation aid but it is not a 100 percent reimbursement.
- The bill attempts to avoid being a mandate; however, the requirement for school boards to hold a public hearing prior to passing a resolution on this matter is a mandate which could pressure the board to require the use of the devices in all buses.
Requires Schools to Provide Instruction in Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)
S.4524-A (Fuschillo) / A.6240-A (Weisenberg) Did Not Pass Either House
- This bill requires instruction in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and as a result, due to statutory language, also mandates instruction in automated external defibrillator (AED) as part of health or physical education, creating a double curriculum mandate.
- The bill also specifically states that “school authorities shall provide the needed facilities, time and place for this instruction and shall provide learning aids and curriculum resource materials to support such course of study.” Based on the plain language of the bill, costs for CPR and AED instruction are borne by the district. The bill makes no provision for the loss of instructional time already mandated.
Schools to Provide Information on Meningococcal Disease Immunization to Seventh Grade Students and Parents
S.2070 (Hannon) / A.3703 (Peoples-Stokes) Did Not Pass Either House
- In current law, boarding schools, colleges and overnight summer camps must distribute written information about meningococcal meningitis and meningitis immunization to all students attending the institution. This legislation would require that the same information be distributed to all students entering the seventh grade.
- This bill creates a reporting mandate on schools with seventh graders. Schools must disseminate information on meningitis to the students and parents and maintain parent opt-in and opt-out information.
Excused Leave to Public Officers and Employees to Undertake Screening for Cervical Cancer
S.2069-A (Hannon) / A.1165-A (Gibson) Did Not Pass Either House
- The bill would require municipalities as well as school districts and boards of cooperative educational services (BOCES) to provide employees with up to four hours of excused leave time for cervical cancer screening.
- School districts and BOCES address time off, including sick leave, through collective bargaining agreements. Mandating that they provide leave time for certain activities undermines that process, by making mandatory a benefit previously bargained for. This proposal, while well intentioned, continues an inappropriate public policy trend.
- Mandated time-off provisions are cost prohibitive as they require not only leave for the employee, but salary for substitute teachers and other staff. Most districts must pay a full day of salary when a substitute teacher works for four hours-the additional leave time allowed each employee annually under this bill. Additionally, the task of finding substitute teachers to stand-in for teachers is a time-consuming administrative burden for districts, particularly now when most districts have been forced to reduce personnel to achieve necessary cost-savings.
Prescription Prices and Pharmacies for Injured Employees
S.1754 (Robach) / A.2653 (Simotas) Passed Assembly Only
- Under current law, workers compensation insurance carriers are allowed to enter into agreements with pharmacies and thereby create a network of pharmacies for claimants to use. The provision of law authorizing these agreements was included with the specific intent of reducing the high cost of prescription drugs in New York State.
- This bill, however, would restore the ability of a claimant to choose a pharmacy, thereby unnecessarily increasing workers compensation premium costs and costs to taxpayers and school districts.
Abolition or Reduction of Positions for Labor Class and Noncompetitive Titles
A.6574 (Abbate) (no same as) Passed Assembly Only
- This bill would provide equal reduction in force and recall provisions to permanently appointed employees appointed to Competitive, Non-Competitive, and Labor Jurisdictional Classification at all levels of State and local government, granting tenure status seniority rights to laborers when there are school lay-offs.
- School districts would be forced to rehire all laid off employees in the order of their seniority, rather than post positions according to actual need when funding allows positions to be reinstated. It would undermine the local collective bargaining process, as well as the district’s ability to manage its workforce.
- NYSSBA’s advocacy was instrumental in securing a veto to this legislation last year.
Health Commissioner to Establish Means of Educating Proprietors and Employees of Public Eating Establishments about Food Allergens
S.3199 (Parker) / A.2574 (Ortiz) Passed Assembly Only
- This bill requires the Commissioner of Health to adopt information to educate proprietors and employees of public eating establishments, including school cafeterias, on the dangers of severe food allergens for allergic individuals. The Commissioner is then to supply information to public eating establishments and adopt regulations for distribution and posting of such information.
- School districts already effectively manage food allergen issues. This bill would take up valuable staff time.
School Districts to Provide Certain Children Transportation to School for a Lesser Distance than Two Miles
S.5394 (Fuschillo) (no same as) Passed Senate Only
- This bill allows school boards, upon written petition of twenty-five qualified voters or five percent of the number of voters who voted in the previous annual election of the members of the board of education, whichever is greater, to provide transportation to and from school for a child residing within the two or three mile designated area to use an already established pick up/drop off location outside of such two or three mile designated area.
- The bill creates a transportation mandate extending bus schedules and timing, and increasing fuel costs, bus maintenance and associated expenditures. School boards already have the authority to set district transportation policy.
Entitlement to Unpaid Leaves of Absence for Victims of Domestic Violence
S.2509 (Robach) / A.7029 (Simotas) Did Not Pass Either House
- This bill would entitle employees who are victims of domestic or sexual violence to be eligible for 90 days of unpaid leave from their employment during any 12 month period to address issues arising from the violence.
- This bill would enable school employees to take additional time for a sensitive and personal matter; however, the Family Medical Leave Act already entitles employees with qualifying health condition with unpaid leave. A teacher taking off 90 days (3 months) would create a significant administrative burden for schools in order for students’ educational program not to decline due to lengthy teacher absences. School boards already have the authority to grant unpaid leaves of absence, making a state mandate unnecessary.
Notices of Claims, Pleading an Affirmative Defense and Making a Motion to Dismiss
S.5072 (Bonacic) / A.6550 (Weprin) Passed Assembly Only
- Under current law, a plaintiff filing an action against a school district must, as a condition precedent, meet notice of claim requirements.
- This bill requires municipalities, including school districts, to raise failure to serve a notice of claim or a late or improperly served notice of claim as an affirmative defense by moving to dismiss the action within 90 days of serving an answer. The affirmative defense would be deemed waived if not raised within the 90 day timeframe.
Instruction in Grades Kindergarten through Eight to Prevent Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse
S.2367 (Klein) / A.661-A (Dinowitz) Passed Senate Only
- This bill is a curriculum mandate, requiring instruction to prevent child sexual exploitation and abuse in grades K-8. Though the bill’s intent is laudable, such curriculum changes must be reviewed and approved by the Regents for their proper incorporation into the school instructional day.
- The bill did not address the issue of which existing instruction would be lost to make room in the current curriculum for the new mandate.
Public School Students to be Screened for Eating Disorders
S.912 (Parker) / A.2337 (Rodriguez) Did Not Pass Either House
- This bill would create a number of very specific unfunded mandates for school districts. First, where children have received a private health evaluation that reveals an eating disorder, at least four times over each child’s academic career the principal has a new notification requirement to each parent. Second, each principal, on each of these occasions, has a notification requirement to the school health official. Third, and most burdensome, is the requirement that each child without a health certificate “be separately and carefully examined and tested to ascertain whether any student has an eating disorder." Finally, if the parents of the child cannot (or will not) provide the treatment required after a child has been identified as having an eating disorder, the bill would force school districts to provide treatment.
- These mandates would place an entirely new burden on schools to become an ongoing health care provider, an expense never envisioned by local taxpayers in supporting schools. Treatment for eating disorders is often provided on an inpatient basis over an extended period of time, creating a significant expense for schools.
Newly Certified Teachers Trained in the Use of Epinephrine Auto-Injectors within 3 Months of Hire
S.4876 (Golden) / A.759-A (Rosenthal) Did Not Pass Either House
- This bill, which applies only to teachers who are certified after the bill’s effective date, requires teachers to complete a course/training in the use of epinephrine auto-injectors (epi-pens) within 3 months of the day the person was hired by a school district or charter school. The training may be performed by the registered school nurse or by a recognized food allergy and anaphylaxis training program through any means available (in person or online).
- This bill creates an administrative mandate, requiring schools to maintain documentation of successful completion in the teacher’s personnel file. Additionally, the bill does not specify what happens if the teacher does not complete training within 3 months, creating a burden for the school to keep track to ensure the training was completed.
Requires the Appointment of a School Business Official for each School District
S.5456 (Carlucci) / A.7196 (Paulin) Did Not Pass Either House
- This bill requires the appointment of a school business official for each school district and permits the sharing of business officials between school districts.
- School district finances have become increasingly complex and difficult to manage during a time of limited resources; however, this bill would create a labor mandate on schools at a time when personnel costs eclipse that of programmatic expenditures. Approximately 90% of school districts employ a business official, thus there is no need to codify current practice. Those that do not are simply in no financial position to do so and typically hire other administrators with sufficient financial background to address school finance issues.
NEGATIVE LEGISLATIVE ACTION
Legislation Opposed by NYSSBA that Passed Both Houses
Authorized Absences by Members of Volunteer Fire Departments and Volunteer Ambulance Squads
S.1604 (Grisanti) / A.4099 (Thiele) Passed Both Houses
- This bill would require the state, local governments (including school districts and BOCES to provide employees with a leave of absence during a declared local or state emergency while engaged in service as a volunteer firefighter or as a volunteer ambulance service member.
- While the bill would otherwise be more disruptive to schools than other local governments, schools are traditionally closed during such declared state or federal emergencies.
Labor Performed under Certain Public Work Contracts
S.3564-A (Bonacic) / A.4810-A (Abbate)Passed Both Houses
- This bill restricts the ability of school districts, political subdivisions and other local governments in the use of Job Order Contracting (JOC).
- School districts use JOC to procure services for small and medium sized maintenance, repair projects and minor new construction projects by using a single competitively bid contract. These contracts streamline the administrative process of contracting for multiple projects and cuts down on the administrative costs associated with procurement.
- The new requirements on JOC under this bill, including limiting the dollar amount of the contracts and requiring descriptions of the actual work to be performed and the specific necessary tasks, would restrict its usefulness to districts. Removing a means of gaining efficiencies for school districts is particularly troublesome given the difficult fiscal challenges currently facing school districts and other local governments. However, the establishment of parameters is understandable, given the wide berth currently allowed.
Volunteer Firefighter or Ambulance Worker Benefits
S.3590 (Griffo) / A.400 (Magnarelli) Passed Both Houses
- This bill extends workers' compensation-like coverage under the Volunteer Firefighters’ Benefit Law or the Volunteer Ambulance Workers’ Benefit Law for injuries to volunteer firefighters and ambulance workers who begin to serve in an emergency occurring outside their jurisdiction before that jurisdiction’s commanding officer arrives at the scene. A fire company, ambulance company or municipality may “opt-out” of the expanded coverage, but must take the steps to affirmatively adopt a resolution prohibiting such coverage.
- This legislation only tangentially affects school districts. It may however, lead to a higher worker’s compensation cost.
Injunctive Relief in Improper Practice Cases
S.4909 (Golden) / A.6869 (Abbate) Passed Both Houses
- This bill extends existing Civil Service law for an additional two years authorizing a party filing an improper practice charge to petition the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) for injunctive relief, pending a final decision on the merits of the case. PERB’s failure to grant the petition is deemed a refusal that is subject to judicial appeal. Once appealed, a court is authorized to grant the injunctive relief if it determines that an improper practice was likely committed and irreparable harm would occur if the conduct at issue were to continue.
- This extender bill should be disapproved because courts have no expertise in deciding whether an improper practice might have occurred, and thus would not be the proper body to grant injunctive relief to aggrieved parties. The adjudication process created by the Taylor Law was crafted to allow PERB exclusive jurisdiction to sort through facts and evidence and make a final determination based on the merits of the claim. However, since this bill is an extension of existing law, there is no new mandate imposed on school districts.
NYSSBA will seek vetoes of legislation that would be harmful to school districts. Look for a complete listing of changes in the annual New Laws pullout section of On Board this fall. Look for a thorough listing of advocacy activities in the annual Advocacy Report in the pre-convention edition of On Board this fall.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR EFFORTS
ON BEHALF OF PUBLIC EDUCATION!
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