Legislative Update from the
NYS Assembly Commission on

Sheldon Silver, Speaker • Joan L. Millman, Chairwoman
August 2006

Message from the Chair

Dear Friends,

I am pleased to report to you on the Commission’s work during the recently completed legislative session.

One of my priorities as chairwoman of the Commission has been the strengthening of State laws that advance opportunities for women and minority-owned businesses. In many cases, these firms tend to be quite small, often having five or fewer employees. Earlier this year, the Commission hosted a roundtable discussion on the effectiveness of State programs for these “micro-businesses.” Several initiatives assisting women and minority-owned firms were included as part of the budget passed by the Legislature this session.

In addition to passing an on-time budget, both houses of the Legislature also passed significant legislation to reform the State’s budget process. The reform legislation enhances reporting requirements for budgeting, forecasting, and contracting. Changes to financial planning and a two-year school appropriation are included to aid municipalities in their dealings with the state. A new independent budget office was proposed to provide analysis to the Legislature and the public.

In order for the Commission to perform most effectively, we need to hear about the concerns of the citizens of New York. I encourage you to send any ideas or comments on ways to improve State government to my office.

Joan L. Millman
NYS Assembly Commission on Government Administration

Assemblywoman Joan L. Millman and Assemblymember Mark Weprin host a Roundtable on Microbusiness at Borough Hall in Brooklyn, June 2006. From left to right: Ron Deutsch, New York Fiscal Fairness Institute; Diana Perez and Nancy Biberman, Women’s Housing and Economic Development Corporation; Joan L. Millman; Mark Weprin; and Michael Caslin, National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship.

Assemblywoman Joan L. Millman

Joan L. Millman


NYS Assembly Commission on Government Administration


Room 510
State Capitol
Albany, NY 12248


(518) 455-5426

NYS Seal


On June 2, Assemblywoman Millman, as Chair of the Commission, together with Assemblymember Mark Weprin, Chair of the Committee on Small Business, hosted a Roundtable on Micro-businesses at Borough Hall in Brooklyn. The Roundtable was co-sponsored by Assemblyman Jose Rivera, Chair of the Task Force on Food, Farm and Nutrition Policy, Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton, Chair of the Task Force on Women’s Issues, and Assemblywoman Joan Christensen, Chair of the Commission on Skills Development.

Micro-businesses, generally defined as business enterprises with five or fewer employees, are a critical component of economic development. Micro-businesses generate jobs, often in communities with high unemployment, and provide a route to economic self-sufficiency for diverse populations. The Assembly Roundtable brought together experts from micro-business development organizations, micro-loan programs, community development funding institutions, libraries and business owners to discuss strategies for improving the State’s outreach to micro-businesses.

Among the points made by Roundtable participants were:

  • Current programs are both efficient and effective in developing small business, but don’t have the capacity to serve the demand for assistance. More state funding is needed.

  • There is no “one size fits all” model for micro-business assistance. The State needs to support experimentation with different models. As programs and products evolve, unnecessary limitations in the law can hamper innovation.

  • Tax breaks, such as those given to businesses in Economic Development Zones, are useful for established businesses, but not for start-ups.

  • There is a need for “bridge loans” as businesses outgrow micro-loans, but are still too small for conventional bank loans.

  • Community-based adult education is a possible means for entrepreneurial training.

  • There are areas, or tracks, of micro-business, such as government procurement or child care, where special training in government processes, regulations and licensing requirements are needed.

  • There is a need for a central data bank of existing programs, best practices, and “how to get started” information. Potential clients and organizations need to have better information about which programs may serve their needs.

In addition to advocating for increased funding of existing micro-business assistance programs, the Commission this fall plans to co-sponsor another Roundtable upstate focusing on development in rural areas and small cities. We will also be looking at developing legislation to increase flexibility in the current laws governing State micro-business assistance and micro-financing. State economic development programs have in the past all too often focused on attracting and retaining large, established companies – in spite of the documented fact that most economic growth happens at the micro level, with the job-by-job, incremental development of sole proprietorships and start-up businesses. We are hopeful that in the coming legislative session and fiscal year more focus and increased resources will be devoted to micro-businesses.

Improving the State’s Contracting Process

As part of budget implementation language this year, the provisions of the Procurement Stewardship Act, which governs the procurement of goods and services by state agencies, was extended until June 2007. To give agencies more purchasing flexibility, and to increase the incentives for agencies to give business to small, minority and women-owned businesses and to purchase recycled products, contract pre-approval and discretionary purchasing thresholds were increased.

In addition, legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Millman to improve the state’s outdated bid advertising process was passed by the Assembly. Assembly bill A.8873 directs the Commissioner of General Services to produce the procurement opportunities newsletter and requires a study by the State Procurement Council on implementation of a statewide electronic procurement opportunity notification system.

2006 Assembly Actions

2006 Assembly Bills Aiding Micro-Businesses

A. 907 – Sponsored by Assemblyman Joseph D. Morelle. Creates a business outreach center network assistance program and revolving fund.

A. 2850 – Sponsored by Assemblywoman Aurelia Greene. Creates a community development financial institutions fund.

A. 3433-A – Sponsored by Assemblyman Joseph D. Morelle. Creates a New York State cultural development areas program. Senate Bill S. 3317.

A. 3717-A – Sponsored by Assemblywoman Vivian E. Cook. Establishes a kitchen incubator/shared-use facility program within the New York State urban development corporation. Passed Assembly.

A. 3190 – Sponsored by Assemblyman Robin Schimminger. Extends for two additional years certain provisions of the self-employment assistance program (SEAP). Senate Bill S2785. Delivered to Governor.

A. 6279 – Sponsored by Assemblyman Darryl C. Towns. Creates the niche market assistance projects for small businesses to identify and develop niche markets for their products in competitive markets.

A. 6704-A – Sponsored by Assemblyman Mark Weprin. Creates the micro-business outreach center assistance program and the micro-business outreach center network. Senate Bill S4063a. Passed Assembly.

A. 9068 – Sponsored by Assemblywoman Joan L. Millman. Establishes mentor-protégé programs for small, minority and women-owned businesses in certain state agencies, departments and authorities. Passed Assembly.

A. 9070 – Sponsored by Assemblywoman Joan L. Millman. Expands membership of the small business advisory board and the minority and women-owned business enterprise advisory board to include individuals representing banking, community development financial, insurance or surety bonding institutions. Expands powers and duties of the division of small business and division of minority and women-owned business development in facilitating access to assistance programs. Passed Assembly.

A. 11155 – Sponsored by Assemblyman Mark Weprin. Creates a “New York entrepreneur of the year award” with a $25,000 monetary award for their entrepreneurial efforts and renames the small business advisory board as the small business and entrepreneurship advisory board. Senate Bill S.6343. Passed Assembly.

A. 11371 – Sponsored by Assemblywoman Joan K. Christensen. Requires agencies promulgating regulations to publish small business regulation guides explaining actions necessary to comply with regulations. Senate Bill S.6768A.

More Support for Minority- and Women-Owned Businesses

In this year’s budget:

Several important changes were made in this year’s budget to improve the Minority-and Women-Owned Business Enterprise program (MWBE), including implementing a more streamlined certification process. The agreement would recognize minority- and women-owned companies as eligible to participate in the awarding of state contracts when their eligibility was established through a federal agency certification program or those provided by Albany and Onondaga Counties or the cities of Buffalo and New York City.

The Legislature’s budget also requires the commissioner of the Department of Economic D evelopment to establish a statewide advocate of the MWBE program, whose job would be to develop outreach efforts that will more effectively inform minority- and women-owned businesses so that there is a better awareness of the program and their ability to participate in the awarding of state contracts.

The Department of Economic Development also would be required to conduct a Disparity Study to document the experience of businesses participating in the MWBE program and whether or not the goals of the program are being achieved.

In addition, to assist the state’s largest employer — small businesses — with the financing they need to compete in the ever changing and challenging marketplace, legislators increased funding for the Excelsior Linked Deposit program by $60 million. This is a highly utilized program that allows the state comptroller to make state deposits in banks where the state receives a low-rate of interest in return for providing low-interest loans to small businesses.

Two bills by Assemblywoman Millman further supporting minority- and women-owned businesses were passed by the Assembly this year:

A.1622 – Establishes an article 15-A implementation fund for the implementation of the provisions of article 15-A of the Executive Law relating to minority group members and women in state contracts. Article 15-A of the Executive Law, participation by Minority Group Members and Women with Respect to State Contracts, needs a source of funding that is provided in this legislation to be an effective law on the books that will bring minorities and females in contact with state contracting activities.

A.9067 – Requires contracting agencies to post minority- and women-owned business utilization plans on agency web sites. Adds requirement for Internet posting of utilization plans to ensure good faith efforts and compliance with MWBE participation requirements of state contracts.

Reforming the State’s Budget Process

Although this year’s budget was completed on time and with a public conference committee process, the Legislature also passed legislation (A.11995/S.8414) that will reform the state’s budget process by providing for expanded public disclosure and enhanced accountability as well as timely budget agreements.

Among the highlights of the bi-partisan reform legislation are provisions that would improve the Legislature’s ability to adopt on-time budgets by changing the state fiscal year from April 1 to May 1, provide the Legislature with additional time to conduct open and public budget conference committees and to evaluate the revenue the state received after the April 15 income tax deadline. Under terms of the reform legislation, the governor, Legislature and the comptroller would be required to begin annual discussions about revenue forecasts and spending projections for the current and upcoming fiscal years by December 5.

Also included in the bill are provisions that would establish an independent budget office responsible for providing the Legislature and the public with an analysis of revenues and expenditures; create a binding revenue estimate, determined by the Comptroller, that would only be used if the Legislature failed to reach an agreement by March 1; and require that a three-year fiscal plan for the state be submitted along with the executive budget, which would be updated 60 days after a new budget is adopted.

Supporting Entrepreneurship in the Arts

Assemblywoman Millman introduced legislation (A.11596) to develop a grant program to help secure affordable housing and work space for artists in New York. The bill would establish a pilot program to assist artists in obtaining shared-use facilities, which serve as both a residence and a studio, performance or gallery space in which to practice or display art. Soaring real estate values in the region are threatening the economic viability of the arts community in New York, forcing artists to move to lower cost areas in other parts of the country. This trend is having a detrimental effect on New York’s unique stature as a world leader in arts and entertainment. New York State communities must remain vibrant and filled with creative individuals.

In addition, the Assembly passed legislation (A.10168), sponsored by Assemblywoman Millman, to establish a $1 million program to provide stabilization grants to non-profit arts institutions. The grants of up to $50,000 will be used as cash reserve funds by small and mid-sized arts organizations for transitional funding to support their growth. This bill would provide a much-needed resource for these organizations that find themselves with periodic cash flow problems due to the seasonal nature of their business as well as the delay in receiving committed grants. The grants would be maintained by the organizations in the form of a cash reserve from which they could periodically borrow and replenish. The cash reserve accounts could also be useful in helping in the form of a cash reserve from which they could periodically borrow and replenish. The cash reserve accounts could also be useful in helping organizations secure additional loans necessary for growth and expansion.

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