EDITORIAL: Hero Act is bad for New York business

The state Capitol Building in Albany.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
The state Capitol Building in Albany.

As is often the case with good intentions, government tends to take them too far.

Here in New York, well-intentioned but unreasonable government regulations and liability insurance costs are often cited among the most significant barriers to the growth of small businesses.

If you’re looking for a fresh example of that, look no further than the new Hero Act.

This deceptively named piece of legislation uses covid as an excuse to impose even more regulations on New York businesses.

The bill (A2681B/S1034B) would require the state to create a model (one-size-fits-all) plan to prevent airborne infectious disease that all private employers would have to adopt in some form. It would set mandates for preventing the spread of the virus in workplaces, including breaks for hand washing, supplies of personal protective equipment and social distancing.

And it would require companies with just 10 or more employees to set up joint employer-employee health committees to raise concerns and address the effectiveness of safety protocols.

First off, the timing couldn’t be worse.

Only now, after a full 14 months under the pandemic, are the businesses that did survive starting to reopen and recover. Even with the lifting of restrictions, many face an uncertain future.

The last thing a business needs right now is more regulation, on top of the state and federal governments’ existing labyrinth of occupational health and safety regulations.

The vaguely worded combination of committees and reporting standards exposes businesses to frivolous litigation.

And it makes no distinction between large corporate entities, which seem to be the real target of this legislation, and the small businesses that employ so many people and operate on such small margins.

Among those opposed to the bill are the Business Council of New York State, the National Federation of Independent Business, numerous regional chambers of commerce (including the Capital Region Chamber) and associations representing the restaurant, food, supermarket, lumber, building and manufacturing industries.

Businesses are already taking steps to protect customers and staff because they need healthy workers and because it’s good for business. And when this once-in-a-century pandemic is over, these regulations will become just another unnecessary added cost of doing business in New York.

This bill is misguided, unnecessary and potentially harmful to businesses and the state economy.

The state Assembly passed the bill on Monday. The Senate and Gov. Andrew Cuomo should make sure it goes no further.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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