Faso to introduce bill preventing federal dollars to go toward state Scaffold Law projects

Speaking at a town hall meeting in Port Ewen on Thursday evening, Rep. John Faso said he’ll introduce legislation this month that would prevent federal money from going toward construction projects that abide by the state Scaffold Law.

Faso announced the legislation after Sue Sullivan, a Plattekill resident and one of seven Democrats challenging Faso for his congressional seat, challenged him by saying legislating state issues from Washington D.C. isn’t his job.

“Oh, I would say it is my job,” Faso said.

Faso, R-Kinderhook, said his legislation would prevent federal dollars from going towards state projects that abide by the state Scaffold Law, which makes property owners and contractors strictly liable for most “gravity-related” injuries to workers on construction sites.

The law, technically known as Labor Law 240, dates back to the late 1800s and is unique to New York. Here’s how the Scaffold Law was described in a 2014 Times Union editorial:

“Groups representing contractors argue the law costs taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars annually on public projects because of outrageously escalating insurance premiums. The law is unfair, they argue, because it holds contractors and property owners fully liable for injury or death of workers while essentially exempting employees of any responsibility for their own actions. The groups support amending the law to allow juries or an arbiter to consider the injured worker’s behavior in determining any monetary awards.

Labor unions, with support from trial lawyers, defend the law’s rigidity. Without it, they say, tough workplace safety standards would quickly become lax, resulting in an increase in falls and other gravity-related injuries and deaths at construction sites.”

Faso said he’s proposing that any federal dollars for projects like transportation, bridges, community development, FEMA projects, housing or affordable housing projects would not be eligible for federal funds if Scaffold Law rules were in effect. Faso argued that the “crazy law” increases costs “by 7-10 percent more in our state.”

“So rather than waste federal taxpayer resources and waste resources and continue to drive people out of out state making it more unaffordable, I’m going to propose that if we have a situation where you’re using federal dollars in our state for construction you have comparable negligence (insurance) rather than strict liability (insurance.) That will save everyone money and that’s what I’m about,” Faso said.

Faso said the Scaffold Law makes it so that trial lawyers “don’t need to prove a thing in their case” and raises the cost of projects because of increased insurance liability. That burden gets passed on to state taxpayers, he said.

“Someone can go up on a ladder drunk and the owner of the property and the contractor are strictly liable in tort. We are the only state in the nation to do it,” Faso said.

Faso also said at the forum he would continue to fight for a provision that would force New York state to pick up Medicaid costs from counties. Faso attached an amendment to a Republican healthcare bill this year that would have forced New York to pick up those costs, but the health care bill failed.

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