Mandate Relief Task Force in NY Quietly Issues Final Report

With no fanfare, and an act that would have largely gone unnoticed by for some media accounts reporting on surprise of the timing, the New York State Mandate Relief Redesign Task Force released their final report this week, months ahead of schedule.  The report, issued pursuant to Executive Order No. 6 which was discussed in an earlier blog posting, states that the 70 proposals for mandate relief discussed by the Team and advanced by the Governor to the Legislature would have resulted in about $370 million annually in statutory mandate relief, but the final mandate relief package that was enacted (CH. 97 of the NY Laws of 2011 – as part of the property tax cap law) will save local governments and taxpayers over $125 million annually. 

Not enacted was a proposed constitutional amendment to control the proliferation of new unfunded mandates, as well as a proposal to ease existing burdens by allowing local governments to seek a complete waiver from a burdensome regulatory mandate.

The report notes that the Governor and Legislature did agree to establish a combined Legislative-Executive Mandate Relief Council that is charged with reviewing and referring statutory and regulatory unfunded mandates to both branches of government for modification or repeal, and that state agencies are in the process of reviewing the Preliminary Report to explore ways in which they can ease the burden for local governments and school districts. The Council is to report on its work by December 15th of each year. Further, agreement was reached on a process allowing local governments to petition for approval of an alternative to a regulatory mandates.

The Report lists the following mandate relief proposals enacted in 2011:

Providing Procurement Flexibility                      

• Allow local governments, including school districts, to directly purchase (“piggyback”) from Federal General Services Administration Schedule 70 contracts (information technology and telecommunications hardware, software and professional services), Federal General Services Administration e-government and defense supply contracts, and county public works contracts.

 • Authorize the Office of General Services (OGS) to provide centralized services in the form of purchases of electricity to political subdivisions, including school districts.

 Eliminating Unnecessary Paperwork

 • Ease the signature requirements for the filing of local laws with the Department of State, which will enable the development of an electronic filing system.

 • Eliminate certain unnecessary or duplicative requirements for filing of certificates and plans with the Division of Housing and Community Renewal.

 Lessening Highway and Transportation Costs

 • Authorize the State Department of Transportation to exchange services, materials, and equipment with local municipalities and public authorities.

• Provide local governments with additional flexibility to use their own labor to perform Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program (“CHIPS”) work on projects costing $100,000 to $250,000.

 • Eliminate the requirement that local governments collect and return deposits for copies of plans and specifications for transportation projects.

 Lowering Public Safety Costs

 • Remove the statutory salary requirements for municipal chiefs of police.

 • Allow municipalities with populations of 10,000 or more to recover the costs of police training from new municipal employers of their trainees.

 • Allow one district attorney to prosecute identity theft crimes that occur in multiple counties.

 • Allow intrastate transfers of people sentenced to interim probation supervision.

 • Provide that the cost of prosecuting inmates who are patients in state mental health facilities shall be borne by the State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.

 Easing the Burden on Local Social Services Agencies

 • Authorize counties to make child care subsidy and kinship guardianship payments electronically.

 • Extend the duration of a foster boarding home license or certificate from one to two years.

 • Require notification of the local social services department when an incapacitated person dies.

 • Make permanent the family assessment response (FAR) program, which permits local social service departments, with the State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) approval, to use an alternative response to appropriate reports of child abuse and maltreatment, and remove the prohibition on New York City participating.

 Providing Relief to Schools

 • Change the required census of Pre-K children from annually to every two years.

 • Authorize school boards to enact a policy to provide student transportation based upon patterns of actual ridership.

 • Ease school building aid penalties for late filing of final cost reports to more appropriate levels.

 • Provide flexibility in claims auditing by allowing school districts to establish the position of deputy claims auditor to act in the absence of the appointed claims auditor and by allowing school districts with 10,000 or more students to audit samples of claims.

 • Authorize up to three school districts with fewer than 1,000 students each to share a school superintendent.

• Authorize school districts to provide regional transportation services jointly with other districts or BOCES.

 The report concludes with the following listing of further opportunities for mandate relief that were discussed, but not enacted:

 Preventing New Unfunded Mandates

 • Enact a constitutional ban on unfunded mandates.

 • Enact a statutory ban on unfunded mandates while the constitutional ban is being ratified.

 • Create a process by which a local government can seek a complete waiver from a regulatory mandate.

 • Require an improved fiscal note on all bills passed by the Legislature.

 Providing Procurement Flexibility

 • Increase the threshold under which a local government has the authority to make discretionary purchases from $20,000 to $50,000 on purchase contracts and from $35,000 to $50,000 on public works contracts.

 • Allow local governments to conduct reverse auctions, award service contracts on the basis of “best value,” and “piggyback” on a competitively bid contract established by another state or political subdivision.

 • Permit a local government to satisfy its public advertising requirements through publication in the Procurement Opportunities Newsletter (the “Contract Reporter”).

 • Allow local governments, including school districts, to enter into procurement credit card agreements.

 • Allow the State, local governments and public authorities to purchase insurance policies for construction projects that cover owners, contractors, workers and the public through a single policy (“wrap up” insurance).

 • Provide for more effective implementation of Project Labor Agreements by local governments and authorize alternative project delivery systems for certain public works projects.

 • Expand the authority of the City of New York to award a contract both for a public work project, as well as the private facilities that need to be accommodated during such project (e.g., moving private energy, telecommunications or other facilities necessary to undertake the project), on the basis for the lowest bid for the combined project.

 Eliminating Unnecessary Paperwork

 • Allow local governments, including school districts, to meet newspaper publication requirements through posting both on an official website and in multiple conspicuous public places, and allow the City of New York to publish the City Record electronically.

• Remove the requirement that tax warrants be filed with individual county clerks and instead authorize single point electronic filing with the Department of State for all tax warrants necessary to affect liens and judgments against the real, personal, and other property of tax debtors.

 • Ensure ongoing local government input into records retention requirements by empowering the Local Government Records Advisory Council to approve regulations governing the administration and maintenance of local government records.

 • Eliminate additional unnecessary or duplicative requirements for filing of certificates and plans with the Division of Housing and Community Renewal.

 Lessening Highway and Transportation Costs

 • Authorize towns to designate certain town roads as low-volume roads and certain low-volume roads as minimum maintenance roads.

 • Eliminate the requirement for back-lit school bus signs.

 • Authorize school districts to allow parents of children with disabilities to opt-out of busing and, instead, be reimbursed for transporting and accompanying their child to school.

 Lowering Public Safety Costs

 • Make all police and peace officer basic training certificates of completion valid for five years.

 •  Establish progressive probation sentencing guidelines.

 • Eliminate the requirement for pre-sentence investigations for youths eligible for Youthful Offender (“YO”) status who have been convicted of certain mandatory misdemeanors where sentences of probation or imprisonment aggregating 180 days or less will be imposed.

 • Allow Sex Offender Registration Act (“SORA”) hearings for inmates at local correctional facilities to be conducted by video conference.

 • Allow a judge to dispense with the need for a personal court appearance by a defendant when a video teleconference is deemed appropriate.

 • Authorize probation authorities to issue temporary detainer warrants for probationers when no judge is available, require review by the sentencing court without unnecessary delay and within 48 hours, and direct the Office of Court Administration to make reasonable efforts to ensure that judges are available in each county to review the status of persons taken into custody for a violation of probation before a detainer warrant is issued.

 • Give counties greater authority to determine housing of inmates in county jails by 1) allowing men and women receiving care or treatment in a facility-operated infirmary to be housed together provided that proper separation is maintained; 2) allowing inmates under age 19 to be housed with inmates under age 22; and 3) allow inmates under age 22 to be housed with adult offenders upon application to the State Commission of Correction.

• Permit sharing of information between probation and other law enforcement agencies regarding persons sentenced as Youthful Offenders (YO).

 • Permit the destruction, after a notice and an opportunity for a hearing but prior to sentencing, of all but a representative sample of counterfeit goods seized by police and used in criminal cases.

 • Allow district attorneys to hire assistant district attorneys who reside outside the county in which they are employed.

 Easing the Burden on Local Social Services Agencies

 • Provide administrative support and competitive grants, to the extent funds are available, to help Local Departments of Social Services (“LDSSs”) improve their child care fraud prevention activities, and to authorize LDSSs to defer or disallow subsidy payments to providers that make improper claims.

 • Allow the Family Court to order LDSSs to investigate families only where there is a reasonable cause to suspect child abuse or neglect and to preclude the court from establishing a shorter timeframe for such investigations than required for any other child protective service (“CPS”) investigation.

 • Amend the definition of educational neglect to apply only to children under age 14, thereby removing educational neglect allegations regarding adolescents over age 14 from local CPS caseloads.

 • Allow parties, interested persons, and witnesses in family court preliminary and dispositional proceedings related to juvenile delinquents, termination of parental rights, persons in need of supervision (“PINS”), abuse and neglect, and permanency hearings to appearance via electronic communication, such as by telephone or videoconference, upon application and court approval.

 • Require new CPS supervisors to undergo common core training only if the supervisor has never had such training or if it has been longer than five years since the supervisor has had such training.

 • Streamline the requirements for LDSS multi-year consolidated services plans, also known as child and family services plans, by allowing a LDSS to submit one multi-year service plan for a five-year cycle and submit updates on significant changes, providing more flexibility for public participation in the planning process, conforming to federal plan requirements and documenting local services options, and eliminating requirements to submit information available to the State through computer systems or in county plans submitted to other agencies.

 • Eliminate the need for labor-intensive case adjustments due to changes in medical support coverage status and eliminates the limitations on cost recovery in Medicaid cases.

 Providing Relief to Schools

 • Eliminate state asbestos reporting requirements that exceed federal requirements under the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act.

• Repeal the requirement that schools provide a form to parents of certain children with disabilities who are veterans of the Vietnam War for a report to the Division of Veterans’ Affairs for research purposes.

 • Provide flexibility in claims auditing by allowing school districts with fewer than 1,000 students to forego an internal audit function.

 • Repeal a duplicative requirement that school districts provide information to other agencies regarding certain students with disabilities.

 • Repeal BOCES special education space planning requirements while retaining the requirement that school districts and BOCES ensure the stability and continuity of program placements for students with disabilities.

 • Repeal the requirement for written parental consent prior to initial provision of special education services in a 12-month special service and/or program.

 • Provide that a due process hearing must be requested within one year of the date the parent or district had knowledge of the issue, with exceptions as required by federal law and with an exception that a parent’s request for tuition reimbursement must be made within 180 days of the date the parent placed his/her child in the private school.

 • Clarify that special education services for parentally-placed students do not include special classes or integrated co-teaching; clarify responsibilities for July / August services; change the date from June 1 to April 1 for a parent to request special education services; make mediation mandatory when due process complaints are sought; and establish regional rate methodologies for billing to districts.