Gov. Andrew Cuomo is trying again to make major reforms to a state law

that benefits minority- and women-owned businesses, but his chances are

presumably better because Democrats now control both houses of the

Legislature.

Cuomo, a Democrat, pushed for the changes last year, including setting

goals for hiring specific minority groups on state contracts — such as “black

men,” “Hispanic women” and “Caucasian women” — and penalizing

contractors that don’t make a “good faith effort” to fulfill the goals.

Cuomo also wants to deter fraud through tougher enforcement and

broaden the program to include hiring goals for all municipalities when

they spend state money on contracts. The law would be extended to Dec.

31, 2024 if approved by the Legislature.

The Democrat-controlled Assembly supported the measures last year but

Republicans who led the Senate only approved extending the program,

known as MWBE, until Dec. 31, 2019 as part of the budget deal with

Republicans lost a majority of Senate seats in the November election, and

now the chamber is controlled by Democrats. The Assembly remains

firmly in control of Democrats.

Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the new Senate majority leader, is the first

woman to lead the chamber.

Stewart-Cousins has championed minority- and women-owned

businesses, including creating a task force in 2017 when she served as

minority leader.

In her Jan. 9 speech on the floor of the Senate when she was elected

majority leader, Stewart-Cousins said, “We are going to reduce mandates

on local governments. And we are going to help our small businesses

It’s unclear whether Stewart-Cousins supports all of the reforms that

Cuomo wants to see in the 2019-20 budget. Her spokeswoman didn’t

return a call for comment.

Cuomo’s proposals are opposed by the Associated General Contractors of

New York, a trade group that represents building and highway contractors.

The AGC was among 30 construction and economic development trade

associations that worked to block the reforms in the Senate last year.

Michael Elmendorf, president and CEO of the AGC of New York, said today

he hasn’t spoken with Stewart-Cousins about the issue since she became

Senate majority leader.

“Last year we probably spent nearly as much time talking to Senate

Democrats as we did Senate Republicans,” Elmendorf said. “I think there

are areas of mutual concern here. I don’t think there’s anyone in the

Legislature that does not support the goals of the MWBE program.”

The AGC supports the intent of spreading opportunities to minority- and

women-owned businesses that were discriminated against for decades in

state contracts, but opposes how the program is administered.

The trade group also argues Cuomo’s goal of awarding 30 percent of state

contracts to MWBE firms is unrealistic, especially upstate because of

demographics, and points to the large number of waivers issued by the

state as evidence of the shortfalls.

Cuomo touts the administration’s success since revamping the program

when he took office in 2011. State contract spending on MWBEs has

increased from less than $100 million to $2.6 billion. New York has the

highest MWBE contract participation rate in the United States, 28.6

percent, according to the governor’s office.

 

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