WASHINGTON, D.C. — A bill that would set a standard for federally funded construction projects that would consider all parties when determining liability for injuries is closer to coming to a vote in the House of Representatives.
The bill, which was introduced in the House by U.S. Rep. John Faso, R-19, in September was voted out of the Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, bringing it one step closer to a vote on the floor.
“New York’s Scaffold Law is a regulation for the sake of regulation,” Faso said. “It provides no measurable safety improvements and costs our state dearly. By passing this legislation, every dollar of federal funding going towards repairing roads, bridges, airports, and building affordable housing will go further.
“With infrastructure investment upcoming, there is no time like now to fix this burdensome regulation.”
State law sets a standard of absolute liability in cases of workers being injured on the job, meaning the workers are not considered in determining liability. New York the only state to have such a standard.
Faso introduced the legislation with state law in mind, but this could be bad news for Democrats who have fought a repeal of the scaffold law in the state Legislature for years.
Republicans in the state Legislature have focused on the Scaffold Law for years, labeling it red tape that hinders business opportunity in the state, but efforts to remove the law from the books have been fruitless. The law never passes in the state’s Democratic-controlled Assembly because of resistance to repeal from state unions.
In the past, Faso, who once was an Assembly member, argued the law causes higher liability insurance costs in the state and drives out competition in that insurance market, which causes construction projects in the state to cost more than they do elsewhere.
Faso said this has greatly limited the number of liability insurance carriers willing to write insurance policies in the state.
Tom Stebbins, the executive director of the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York, celebrated the committee’s decision.
“Today marks tremendous progress towards ensuring that federal infrastructure dollars are not wasted. This bill will make more infrastructure improvement possible, without compromising quality or safety,” he said.
This is not the first time Faso has used his position in Congress to influence state policies.
Faso introduced an amendment to the failed Obamacare repeal and replace legislation that would require the state to shoulder the cost of Medicaid — a price tag local municipalities pay and receive some compensation for from the state.
The Medicaid amendment received backlash from the governor, who said it would devastate the state’s health care system.