Jacobs Introduces Bill that will Lower Construction Costs in NYS

September 14, 2020
Press Release
Bill would eliminate Scaffold Law for federally funded projects

(Erie County, N.Y.) – Congressman Chris Jacobs (NY-27) announced the introduction of the Infrastructure Expansion Act (H.R. 8222) this morning at a press conference in Hamburg, NY. 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"The Scaffold Law is an outdated 19th century law that burdens our taxpayers and hurts our ability to provide critical infrastructure for New Yorkers across the state. 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," Jacobs said.


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’s 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 preempting the 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.”

"This legislation brings much-needed attention to the fiscal implications of New York's wasteful 'Scaffold Law.' I commend Rep. Jacobs for introducing this bill and for his dedication to ensuring that every dollar invested in the Empire State's infrastructure is spent with the public's best interest in mind and not wasted on expensive lawsuits. Lawmakers in Albany should take note, follow his lead, and finally fix this costly, archaic law," Tom Stebbins, Executive Director of Lawsuit Reform Alliance of N.Y., said.


"Because of archaic statutes like New York's Labor Law 240/241, or 'Scaffold Law,' construction insurance for small businesses in New York, like those represented by NFIB, is the highest in the nation, stifling growth and commerce across every community in our state. The Scaffold Law doesn't discriminate between public and private development – affordable housing, roads, bridges, and schools all cost taxpayers more because of this statute. While Albany should be laser-focused on addressing laws like this to jumpstart our post-COVID economic recovery, reform has proven elusive in the State Capital. Small businesses across New York State are thrilled to see Congressman Jacobs prioritize this critical issue in Washington by introducing legislation that will place a fair liability standard on federally funded infrastructure projects in New York," Greg Biryla, NFIB's N.Y. State Director, said.


"New York's 'Scaffold Law' has been called 'New York's Stupidest Law,' In fact, it may well be one of the most outdated laws in America. 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. 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," Mike Elmendorf, President & CEO of the Associated General Contractors of New York State said.


"New York's regulations have held back our state for far too long. Instead of wasting our tax dollars on excessive and unnecessary insurance costs, our money can be better used to fund critical infrastructure projects and good-paying jobs,” Jacobs said. “I want small businesses and taxpayers to be able to survive and prosper here, that is why I have taken action today. We need a state that welcomes investment and small businesses, and I will continue to use my office to work in the best interest of the taxpayers and small business owners living in New York."