Bill S1542-2013

Relates to the membership of the New York city water board; repealer

Relates to the membership of the New York city water board.

Details

Actions

  • Jan 8, 2014: REFERRED TO CORPORATIONS, AUTHORITIES AND COMMISSIONS
  • Jan 9, 2013: REFERRED TO CORPORATIONS, AUTHORITIES AND COMMISSIONS

Memo

BILL NUMBER:S1542

TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the public authorities law, in relation to the membership of the New York city water board; and to repeal certain provisions of such law relating thereto

PURPOSE: To make changes to the composition of the New York city water board.

SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS:

Section one of the bill would change the composition of the New York City water board from seven appointees, all by the mayor to four appointees by the mayor, one each by the city comptroller, public advocate and speaker of the New York city council.

Section two makes certain technical amendments.

Section three sets forth the effective date and the process and timing for the new appointments.

JUSTIFICATION: The Water Board leases the City's water and sewer system from the City and is required to set rates and collect revenues sufficient to cover operating and debt service expenses. Board powers and responsibilities are set forth in the statute creating the Board and the NYC Municipal Water Finance Authority ("NYW"); the Lease between the Board and the City; and the Financing Agreement among the Board, the City and NYW.

Under the current statute, the Board consists of seven members appointed to two year terms by the Mayor. The Mayor also appoints the Chairperson from among the members. If not reappointed, a member serves until replaced. Events of the past three years have demonstrated that this sole Mayoral control of the Water Board does not serve the best interests of the public.

In the FY 2008 - FY 2010 rate-setting cycles, three successive double-digit increases in water and sewer rates were imposed. Fundamental questions about the factors contributing to such increases were raised by Water Board members, civic and affordable housing organizations, and elected officials.

These concerns came to a head in the FY 2009 rate-setting process in May 2008. In response, then-DEP Commissioner Emily Lloyd committed to conduct an independent in-depth study of the overall rate structure, and to have the study completed in time to inform the Board's FY 2010 rate setting. The Water Board agreed to pay for this study out of water and sewer fee revenues.

Also in 2008, another issue emerged that drew public and Water Board attention, that of gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale formation that

underlies, in part, the Catskill-Delaware watershed. This drilling incorporates a new technique called hydraulic fracturing that involves toxic chemicals and very high volumes of water. DEP's response to this new threat to the watershed was to commission a study with an indeterminate due date. Several members of the Board expressed concern that DEP was not moving aggressively enough to protect the watershed from the risks of this drilling, which could undercut the Filtration Avoidance Determination and the hundreds of millions of dollars the City has spent to protect the watershed.

Subsequent to these two instances of Board members challenging City actions, three of the Board members who had expressed concerns about City policy resigned from the Board, one of them after having been replaced as Chairman after many years of service. Under the new Board leadership, no effort has been made to hold the DEP to its commitment to complete the rate study, which as a result was not been completed on the promised timetable and was not available in the Water Board's 2010 rate-setting process. The DEP study on gas drilling is also incomplete after almost a year.

These actions and outcomes demonstrate the inadequacy of the Water Board's current membership structure to safeguard the interests of ratepayers and the water system. With full Mayoral control and composition, the Board is merely an instrument of City policy rather than an independent actor. This affects not only the decisions of the Board but the very process by which decisions are reached - there is no independent questioning, monitoring or accountability imposed on the City.

This bill would address the Board's lack of true independence by adding appointees of other City-wide elected officials to the Board. It would not expand the Board, but rather, replace 3 of the 7 Mayoral appointees with appointees of the City Comptroller, City Council Speaker, and Public Advocate. While the Mayor would continue to appoint a majority, these new members would ensure that new and ongoing challenges would be addressed freely and impartially.

LEGISLATIVE HISTORY: 2009: Referred to Rules 2010: Referred to Corporations, Authorities & Commissions 2011: Referred to Corporations, Authorities & Commissions 2012: Referred to Corporations, Authorities Commissions

FISCAL IMPLICATIONS: None.

EFFECTIVE DATE: Immediately, with provisions.


Text

STATE OF NEW YORK ________________________________________________________________________ 1542 2013-2014 Regular Sessions IN SENATE (PREFILED) January 9, 2013 ___________
Introduced by Sen. PERKINS -- read twice and ordered printed, and when printed to be committed to the Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions AN ACT to amend the public authorities law, in relation to the member- ship of the New York city water board; and to repeal certain provisions of such law relating thereto THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, REPRESENTED IN SENATE AND ASSEM- BLY, DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS: Section 1. Subdivision 2 of section 1045-f of the public authorities law is REPEALED and a new subdivision 2 is added to read as follows: 2. A. THE WATER BOARD SHALL CONSIST OF SEVEN MEMBERS TO BE APPOINTED, AS FOLLOWS: (I) FOUR MEMBERS APPOINTED BY THE MAYOR; (II) ONE MEMBER APPOINTED BY THE NEW YORK CITY COMPTROLLER; (III) ONE MEMBER APPOINTED BY THE PUBLIC ADVOCATE FOR THE CITY OF NEW YORK; AND (IV) ONE MEMBER APPOINTED BY THE SPEAKER OF THE NEW YORK CITY COUNCIL. B. TERMS OF OFFICE OF THE MEMBERS SHALL BE TWO YEARS. AT LEAST ONE MEMBER APPOINTED BY THE MAYOR SHALL HAVE EXPERIENCE IN THE SCIENCE OF WATER RESOURCE DEVELOPMENT. NO MEMBER SHALL BE A DIRECTOR OF THE AUTHOR- ITY. THE CHAIRMAN SHALL BE ELECTED BY MAJORITY VOTE OF THE MEMBERS OF THE BOARD. ALL MEMBERS SHALL CONTINUE TO HOLD OFFICE UNTIL THEIR SUCCES- SORS ARE APPOINTED AND QUALIFIED. VACANCIES SHALL BE FILLED IN THE MANNER PROVIDED FOR ORIGINAL APPOINTMENTS. VACANCIES, OCCURRING OTHER- WISE THAN BY EXPIRATION OF TERM OF OFFICE, SHALL BE FILLED IN THE SAME MANNER AS ORIGINAL APPOINTMENTS FOR THE UNEXPIRED TERMS. S 2. Subdivisions 3, 4, 5 and 7 of section 1045-f of the public authorities law, as added by chapter 513 of the laws of 1984, are amended to read as follows:
3. Each member of the water board shall be entitled to reimbursement for his OR HER actual and necessary expenses incurred in the performance of his OR HER official duties and a per diem allowance of one hundred fifty dollars when rendering service as a member; provided that the aggregate of such per diem allowance to any one member in any one fiscal year of the board shall not exceed the sum of five thousand dollars. 4. Notwithstanding any inconsistent provision of law, general, special or local, or any city charter, no officer or employee of the city shall be deemed to have forfeited or shall forfeit his office or employment or any benefits provided under the retirement and social security law, by reason of his OR HER acceptance of membership on the water board, provided, however, that a member of the board who holds other public office or employment shall receive no additional compensation for services rendered pursuant to this title, but shall be entitled to reimbursement for his OR HER actual and necessary expenses incurred in the performance of such services. 5. The [mayor] APPOINTING AUTHORITY may remove [any member] HIS OR HER APPOINTEE for inefficiency, neglect of duty or misconduct in office after giving such member a copy of the charges against such member and an opportunity to be heard and defended, in person or by counsel, upon not less than ten days' notice. If any member shall be so removed, the [mayor] APPOINTING AUTHORITY shall file in the office of the clerk of the city a complete statement of charges against such member, and the [mayor's] APPOINTING AUTHORITY'S findings thereon, together with a complete record of the proceedings. 7. A majority of the members of the water board shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of any business or the exercise of any power of the board. The water board shall have power to act by the affirmative vote of not less than a majority of the members in office at any duly held meeting thereof. The water board may delegate to one or more of its members or its officers, agents and employees, such powers and duties as it may deem proper. Any member who is an officer of the city may, by written instrument, filed with and approved as to form by the board, designate another city officer to perform in [his] THE MEMBER'S absence his OR HER duties under this title. The term "member" as used in this section shall include such persons so designated as provided herein. The designation of any such person shall be deemed temporary only and shall not affect the civil service or retirement rights of the person so designated. S 3. This act shall take effect immediately, provided that the first three vacancies after the effective date of this act shall be filled by the New York city comptroller, the public advocate for the city of New York and the speaker of the New York city council, respectively, pursu- ant to section one of this act.

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