The Adirondack Regional Chambers of Commerce works with our member businesses, organizations, and the academic community who serve on committees, subcommittees, task forces, and councils to develop and implement policy on major issues affecting business in our region of Washington, Warren, Northern Saratoga and Essex Counties.
May 9, 2019 - Letter Regarding Farmworkers Fair Practices ActSenator Jessica RamosChair of Committee on LaborLegislative Office BuildingRoom 946Albany, NY 12247Dear Senator,You and your colleagues are currently looking at implementing the Farmworkers Fair Practices Act. I would urge you and your colleagues to look at the entire picture of farm work; the farmer, the farm worker and the farm animals. Your recent comments that most farmers are hard-working and treat workers fairly is spot on. Many of the proposals in this bill will hurt so many hard-working farmers who are already struggling to survive. These farms provide high quality food and milk to our entire state. Moving this bill “as is” will cause many of these farms, especially smaller family farms, to shut their doors forever.I hope you will consider the following:
While New York is one of the most expensive states to operate a farm, the above suggestions will help farmers stay in business and continue to produce the best food in the world.Thank you much for your attention to ensure that New York farms will be here for generations to come.Blessings,Michael BittelPresident/CEOAdirondack Regional Chamber of Commercecc: Governor Andrew CuomoSenator Stewart-Cousins, Majority LeaderSenator Jan Metzger, Chair of Committee on AgricultureSenator Betty Little, Senate-45Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo, Chair of Committee on AgricultureAssemblyman Marcos Crespo, Chair of Committee of LaborAssemblywoman Carrie Woerner, Assembly-113Assemblyman Dan Stec, Assembly-114
- No automatic overtime for hours worked over 8 hours per day. On the farm during harvesting, planting, normal course of people calling in sick or taking vacation, there is a need to work over 8 hours per day. The term, “make hay while the sun is shining” is a real term for good reason. Having farmers pay for hours over 8 worked in a day at overtime rate would severely add to farm costs that are already at critical levels.
- Farmer tax deduction for housing of farm workers. Many farms provide housing for their workers at no additional charge to the employee. Helping farmers offset these costs with a state tax deduction would continue to help support farm workers and their housing needs.
- No work stoppage. Farms operate with live animals and “living” food. If employees were allowed to walk off the job, many animals would get sick and/or perish. For example, cows need to be milked twice per day, if not they will get an infection which would at the very least make the cow sick or worse. We all want to ensure there is no chance, intentional or not, of animal abuse.
- More funding for worker safety training. Employee safety is always the #1 priority on any farm I have been on. Each year there is often a mix of veteran and new employees on the farm. All employees need safety training on a regular basis. Help from the state in this regard would maintain and encourage a high level of safety on the farm.
- No unemployment benefit payments paid on behalf of H2A employees. Farmers currently pay unemployment benefit payments on H2A workers who will never utilize this benefit. H2A workers are here on a temporary job guest worker program.
Monday, April 1, 2019 - ARCC 2019 NY State Budget Legislative ActionAs our State Elected Officials convened in Albany to discuss the NY State Budget and other Legislative initiatives, your Chamber has been busy advocating for our members. Many thanks to Senator Little, Assemblyman Stec and Assemblywoman Woerner (and their staffs) for putting up with my many phone calls. Thanks to the offices of Governor Cuomo and Senator Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins for also putting up with me as well! This budget and the bills proposed were a moving target well into Sunday (yesterday). Here is a brief snapshot of what we have been advocating for you:Prevailing Wage – This has been kept out of the budget. ARCC was opposed to this being in the budget. Prevailing wage would have mandated that any entity receiving NY State funding would have to pay employees and contractor’s wages set by NY State. Most cost estimates put cost increases in labor at 20% for our region. While this of course would have hurt businesses who utilize state funding, it would have also hit our non-profits and schools particularly hard as well.Bottle Bill Expansion – This has been kept out of the budget. ARCC was opposed to this being in the budget. Several of our members would have been hit hard by this bottle bill expansion. While there is a 5 cent bottle return transaction, the current proposed bill did not address the additional costs to our stores and distributors in handling and disposing of the bottles.Plastic Bag Ban – This has passed as one of the budget bills. ARCC was opposed to this being in the budget as proposed. The Plastic Bag Ban most closely mirrors a Nassau County Plastic Bag Ban. Two features of this bill that we hope are changed in the future: 1) this primarily bans “one time use” bags mostly found at the grocery level. There are a number of exemptions where plastic bags will be used. It does not seem “fair” for the state to pick a targeted ban on plastic bags. 2) Each County can “opt-in” or “opt-out” if they would like to utilize a 5 cent usage fee on paper bags. This is tough on multi county members whose stores are in many counties across our region and state.Permanent Tax Cap – This has passed as one of the budget bills. The ARCC backed this bill. It provides more consistency to our members and the greater community for year over year tax bills capping property tax increases to 2% or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower. The ARCC was also pleased to see an additional $1 Billion dollars toward education in the budget or an increase of 3.8% year over year. There is supposed to be a funding mechanism to help fund “poorer” schools at a higher rate.Agriculture Funding – The ARCC supported our farmer members and greater community for funding to be fully restored for our upstate farming sector. Farming is the #3 economic driver in our region. At the beginning of last week we were down $5,000,000 in Ag funding compared to last year. It looks like the final bill has Ag funding down $1,100,000. Most of the Ag cuts seem to be with Cornell. This does not bode well for farm research and support. It is important to our economy to get this funding reinstated.Internet Taxes – This has been a moving target all the way through Sunday (yesterday). The ARCC has been active on this issue so that our Counties would receive their fair share of internet sales tax back through the state. In Warren/Washington/Saratoga County, for example a common sales transaction has a 7% tax, 4% goes to NY State and 3% goes to the County the purchase was made. A recent Supreme Court ruling stated that states can charge sales tax to online companies who have no presence in NY State. A week ago, NY State wanted to implement this tax a.s.a.p. and keep the entire 7%. This money would have gone toward the Metro Transit Authority, the Upstate Transit Authority and early voting costs. It actually passed into law Sunday with NY State keeping the full 7% and distributing portions of it to the cities, towns and villages to fund AIM (Aid and Incentives for Municipalities). The ARCC believes this is a bad precedent to set, that NY State controls where part, or all, of the County’s 3% goes. The ARCC believes that the 3% portion should go directly back to the Counties and AIM should be funded separately from the 3% as it has in the past. The way funding is set up in this bill, rural counties will receive less funding with this new pass through.Serving you, our member, is our #1 priority. Part of our service is making sure your voice is heard in Albany. We often have unique challenges and opportunities in our region that are different from other regions of New York State. Your ARCC is working hard to be part of the discussion and part of the solution regarding issues that are important to our area and your business. Thank you much for your support.Michael BittelARCC President/CEO
January 24, 2019 - Lehigh Northeast Cement Title V Permit Modification
Beth A Magee
NYSDEC Region 5 Warrensburg Sub-Office
232 Golf Course Rd
Warrensburg, NY 12885
RE: Lehigh Northeast Cement Title V Permit Modification
Dear Ms. Magee:
I am writing in support of the Department of Environmental Conservation’s preliminary determination to modify Lehigh Northeast Cement Company’s Title V air emissions permit to allow for the limited use of an engineered fuel product known as “raggertail” as a partial substitute for fossil fuels in its cement kiln.
The Lehigh Northeast plant has been an integral part of the Greater Glens Falls business community for 125 years, providing good paying jobs to generations of local people and manufacturing an essential building product for homes, business, roads and bridges. The Glens Falls plant is the longest operating cement plant in the country, and one of only two surviving cement plants in New York State. They are fighting valiantly to continue this proud tradition by seeking out an alternative to fossil fuels that will lower their cost of production and enable them to remain competitive in the face of intense competition from a massive Canadian cement plant that began operations last year and is flooding the eastern seaboard with low-cost, government-subsidized cement.
It is my understanding that DEC approved the methodology for, and directly oversaw, the emissions tests performed with the alternative fuel, and that the Department determined that the emissions generated would fall below the levels included in the plant’s existing Title V permit, which were established by the United States Environmental Protection Agency in 2015 and reaffirmed by EPA as protective of human health and the environment in 2018.
In its Environmental Notice Bulletin of November 21, 2018, DEC clearly states, “Emissions testing performed at the facility while burning the alternative fuel on a trial basis demonstrated that its use will not cause ambient impacts above State guideline concentrations.”
Lehigh Northeast Cement is a responsible, valued member of New York State’s manufacturing community and has chosen a responsible and progressive approach to reducing its production costs while protecting our environment. In selecting its proposed replacement fuel, Lehigh has chosen a product that is made up of non-recyclable residuals from recycled paper mills — helping to ease the burden on our state’s rapidly diminishing landfill space and reducing the plant’s consumption of fossil fuels.
I encourage you to reaffirm DEC’s conclusion that use of this fuel is safe for the environment and local people, and approve Lehigh’s permit modification at the conclusion of the public comment period.
November 4, 2018 - Rural & Agriculture Jobs Act
In Washington, Warren, Saratoga and Essex Counties, we understand the struggles of rural communities that are working so hard to attract and retain businesses of all shapes and sizes. The Adirondack Regional Chambers of Commerce is focused on helping member businesses build awareness of their goods and services, expand their operations, and connect with other organizations across the region to help support their growth and success.
But we need Governor Cuomo to help us, help Upstate.
Rural areas like St. Lawrence County in the North Country are hurting, with an average unemployment rate of 6 percent – among the highest in New York, and nearly double the national average.
In the rural Southern Tier, years of economic depression and job loss have made the region a leader in one category: population decline. Eight Southern Tier counties are among the state’s 25 with the most people fleeing – totaling more than 27,000.
And in our region, we have similar challenges.
However, there is a plan in place that could help jump-start investment and job creation in these rural areas.
The Post Star recently reported on legislation known as the Rural and Agriculture Jobs Act, which had wide bi-partisan support in the Legislature and is awaiting the Governor’s signature. A coalition of business groups, agricultural associations and individuals have banded together and formed the campaign Revive Rural NY to show the Governor that real people who live, pay taxes and raise their families in Upstate support this bill.
The bill would establish a $100 million fund created through private investment, to help small businesses that are agricultural in nature or located in struggling rural areas. It would improve access to capital for rural and agriculture-related businesses that often have difficulty obtaining financial backing through traditional lending sources. WestWind Farms in Moreau, featured in the Post Star article, is an example of a local business that would have access to the tools they need to expand as a result of this legislation.
Private investors who contribute to the program would receive a tax credit, and reporting requirements are also included for accountability.
I strongly encourage Governor Cuomo to sign this legislation and help revive rural areas through agricultural investment. This will support businesses and farms as they work to create new jobs and help families remain in the communities they love.
Adirondack Regional Chambers of Commerce
October 4, 2018 - A Message from Michael Bittel, ARCC President/CEO
The Adirondack Regional Chambers of Commerce is pleased to announce that the Department of Labor has extended the Sexual Harassment Training deadline to October 9, 2019 from December 31, 2018.
Your Chamber worked diligently with Senator Betty Little, Assemblyman Dan Stec and Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner to extend this timeline. Many thanks to each of them for their time, attention and follow through.
Here are some facts and information on the training:
While the initial training period has been extended, please note that your employee policy requirements must be updated by October 9, 2018.
September 25, 2018 - A Message from Michael Bittel, ARCC President/CEO
“Many thanks to Megan Collelo of Bond, Schoeneck and King Attorneys for speaking today to an Adirondack Regional Chambers of Commerce crowd about New York State’s new annual Discrimination Training Requirements. Just a reminder for those who could not attend, these requirements are due on October 9, 2018 to have ready for your employees. Training for all employees is currently due by December 31, 2018. We are still waiting for New York State to put forth the updated requirements.
Your Adirondack Regional Chambers of Commerce has been in contact with State elected officials, the Department of Labor and the Governor’s office to urge the Department of Labor to extend the initial training period to at least March 31, 2019."
September 9, 2018 - ARCC President Michael Bittel joined Supervisor for the Town of Moreau Todd Kusnierz for interview on LOOK TV to discuss the new Moreau Sewer District. Check out the video here.
August 16, 2018 - Save the Gooley Club
Hon. Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor of New York State
NYS State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224
Dear Governor Cuomo,
Congratulations on New York State’s continued efforts to keep the Adirondacks in its natural state. The purchase of the Finch Pruyn land in the Essex Lakes region and Boreas Ponds areas has added to this vision. We hope to see more economic benefit in visitors to the area in years to come.
We are very concerned about the planned destruction of the historic Gooley Club, located in the heart of the Adirondacks. The Gooley Club is the oldest continuously operating hunting and fishing club in the Adirondacks. The Gooley Club Camp has recently been placed onto the New York State and National Registers of Historic Places.
The Adirondack Regional Chambers of Commerce urgently requests to postpone the planned demolition of the Gooley Club. Our hope is that the State, the Gooley Club and other key stakeholders like Senator Betty Little have an open dialogue toward a productive resolution where all parties come together with a solution for all.
Thank you in advance for your consideration. We look forward to a “Forever Wild Adirondacks” balanced with the historic beauty of camps like this to honor our past.
President and CEO
Cc: Basil Seggos, Commissioner, NYSDEC
August 9, 2018 - Proposed Moreau Sewer District Extension
On August 27, 2018, owners of 86 parcels of land on a portion of Route 9 in the Town of Moreau have an opportunity to vote on a “Resolution establishing extension No. 5 of Sewer District No. 1 within the Town of Moreau”. We at the Adirondack Regional Chambers of Commerce believe a “YES” vote will encourage job growth, in the long-term lower taxes and address vital environmental concerns.
The proposed sewer district section of Route 9 is roughly 1500 feet south of Butler Road almost meeting Exit 17 of the Northway. Putting in this sewer line will encourage businesses to grow in this area, both current owners and new owners, in turn providing more jobs for our region. More businesses moving in and expanding means more opportunity for our friends and neighbors and lower tax rates for the residents of the Town of Moreau. Concentrating businesses in an established commercial area is smart planning and good stewardship by the Town of Moreau leadership.
The ongoing quality of the Town’s water table would also be addressed with this sewer line implementation. This portion of Moreau has sandy soil. When you have sandy soil, it is tougher for wastewater to be filtered prior to being re-introduced into the water table. A sewer pipe laid in this densely populated use area would address water quality concerns, especially as Department of Health regulations continue to become stricter. The alternative is for individual businesses to continue to upgrade costly individual septic systems as current systems fail in the future.
We are also pleased with the transparency by Moreau Town Supervisor Todd Kusnierz and the Town Council regarding this proposal. Several open town board meetings were held to hear from residents of the area. The Town of Moreau website, http://www.townofmoreau.org/proposed_sewer_district.asp, has a listing of costs, maps, bond resolution, SEQRA resolution, how to vote, who can vote, and much more.
In the eyes of the Adirondack Regional Chambers of Commerce, more jobs, maintaining water quality in the Town, transparency by Town leaders and long-term lower taxes add up to a “YES” vote for us on August 27, 2018. We hope it does for you too.
May 16, 2018 - Eliminating the Tip Credit
Governor Cuomo is having the New York State Department of Labor look into raising the minimum wage for servers and bartenders. Currently, servers and bartenders make a minimum wage of $7.50 per hour while the “general” New York State minimum wage is $10.40 per hour. That gap is called a Tip Credit. On the surface it seems that this would put servers and bartenders at equal pay with others who make minimum wage. With that said, New York law already states that if a server or bartender does not make enough in tips to equate to $10.40 per hour ($7.50 per hour plus tips greater than $10.40 per hour), then the employer will make up the difference in wages to achieve the $10.40 per hour.
Sometimes the best of intentions doesn’t always address the problem you are trying to solve. First and foremost, I remember serving at Papa Gino’s, where Starbucks is now on Aviation Road. I made below minimum wage but the harder I worked the more tips I received. With my base pay and my tips, I made far and above minimum wage. This is the biggest reason that most servers I have spoken with don’t want their base pay increased, because study after study shows when that happens, customers tip less. Maine implemented this action and they couldn’t rescind it fast enough. It wasn’t the restaurant owners who were the loudest voice to rescind the law, it was the servers and bartenders.
Most restaurants in our area already struggle with day to day operations, food costs, current regulations and tourism fluctuations. Restaurant owners have little options to absorb the $2.90 per hour increase. The limited options include raising menu prices, cutting the number of servers and overall staff, and being open fewer hours. In places where this policy has been implemented, restaurant closure rate increased dramatically.
All of this brings us to you, the customer. With an increase in minimum wage for servers and bartenders, you the customer will pay more, with less serving hour options and less staff. So many of our restaurants are local, owned by our neighbors and they want to give you the best food and service possible. This elimination of the Tip Credit will make a lifetime of hard work and service for many of our restaurant owners and neighbors a struggle at best and for many closures a real possibility.
The Adirondack Regional Chamber of Commerce hopes that the best thinking goes into the Tip Credit issue. There is rarely a time when all involved, the employee, the employer and the customer win. This is one of those times, let’s all win and keep the Tip Credit in place.