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Jacobs wants to eliminate Scaffold Law on federally funded projects in NY

Posted 15 September 2020 at 7:29 am

Congressman said 19th century law burdens taxpayers, makes NY less competitive

Provided photo: U.S. Rep. Chris Jacobs held a news conference on Monday in Hamburg with members of the construction, business and insurance industries.

Press Release, U.S. Rep. Chris Jacobs

Congressman Chris Jacobs (NY-27) announced the introduction of the Infrastructure Expansion Act (H.R. 8222) on Monday morning at a news conference in Hamburg. The press conference was attended by representatives from construction, business, and insurance organizations. Congressman Tom Reed (NY-23) has also joined the legislation as a co-sponsor.

“The Scaffold Law is an outdated 19th century law that burdens our taxpayers and hurts our ability to provide critical infrastructure for New Yorkers across the state,” Jacobs said. “Today I am proud to announce that I have taken action to combat one of the most burdensome regulations in New York State by introducing legislation that will drive federally funded construction costs down significantly, making New York more competitive for investment and reducing the taxpayer’s cost. It is my hope Albany will follow suit and repeal the Scaffold Law altogether.”

Currently, in New York State, the Scaffold Law imposes absolute liability for gravity-related injuries, despite who is at fault for the injury, on construction employers and property owners, forcing companies to purchase expensive liability insurance that drives up an overall project’s cost.

For example, the Gateway Rail project is expected to see additional costs of $180 to $300 million due to this requirement. It is also estimated this law has added an additional $200 million on the cost of the Tappan Zee Bridge Project. For families building a home, the New York State Builders Association has estimated that the Scaffold Law increases residential construction costs by as much as $10,000.

The Infrastructure Expansion Act that Rep. Jacobs has introduced imposes a comparative negligence liability standard, pre-empting the Scaffold Law on all projects receiving federal funding. Under Jacobs’ legislation, gravity-related accidents would be investigated to determine blame in the cause of the injury, meaning businesses would no longer be forced to carry excessive insurance plans, and taxpayers are safe guarded against wasteful spending.

“It’s time we finally tackle one of New York’s most economically devasting statutes – the Scaffold Law,” said Rep. Tom Reed (NY-23). “By pre-empting the (Scaffold) Law, we can ensure federal construction projects and communities across New York are no longer unfairly burdened by this harmful law. We will continue to take steps to fight back against the impractical legislation coming out of Albany and boost economic development opportunities throughout the state.”

Mike Elmendorf, President & CEO of the Associated General Contractors of New York State, said the Scaffold Law is one of the most outdated laws in the country.

“The Scaffold Law, which creates an only-in-New-York absolute liability standard, holds contractors and building owners wholly responsible for gravity-related accidents on construction sites, regardless of who was culpable,” Elmendorf  said. “Workers, small businesses and taxpayers are left holding the bag while trial lawyers laugh all the way to the bank. We commend Congressman Chris Jacobs for introducing the Infrastructure Expansion Act to try to spare federally funded projects from these excessive and unjustifiable costs. We urge Congress to act to protect taxpayers—while also continuing to urge Albany to finally correct this injustice by reforming this outrageous and antiquated law.”

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