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Governor signs worker protection, vetoes hydrofracking ban

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Governor David Paterson has signed a law mandating tougher penalties for bosses who illegally withhold workers' pay. The signing comes just three weeks before the end of Paterson's term in office, and just days after he vetoed a bill banning hydrofracking. Karen DeWitt has more on both actions.

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Karen DeWitt
NYS Capitol Correspondent

Paterson signed into law a bill offering greater protections for workers who are cheated out of their wages, saying they deserve “every cent” of their pay.

“It is galling to know that hard working New Yorkers are having their resources pinched by unscrupulous employers,” said Paterson.

The state’s Labor Commissioner, Colleen Gardner, says the abuses are most common in low wage industries, like car washes, restaurants, and grocery store delivery services.

In the past, the laws were so weak that employers often chose to pay a nominal fine rather than the money owed to workers. Now, they’ll face up to a year in jail for violations.   Paterson says the government regulators will have to rely on workers to tell them if their employer is holding back their pay.

Governor Paterson also says he vetoed a bill imposing a moratorium on hydrofracking gas drilling, because he did not want to shut an entire industry down.

Paterson says the bill was too broad, and while it would have temporarily banned the horizontal hydrofracking practice that has raised questions about environmental safety, it would also have ended so-called vertical hydrofracking, a practice Paterson says has been carried out safely in the state for decades.

“To actually shut the industry down, based on research, would be an irresponsible act of government, “ Paterson said. “You have to have a finding.”

Paterson says he believes his executive order, which would ban the horizontal hydrofracking until at least next July, will give the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation more time to conduct a review of the process.

The veto led to protests Monday outside Paterson’s Manhattan offices.

State Senator Liz Krueger and actor Mark Ruffalo, among others, say drillers can exploit a loophole in the executive order. They say they worry an “overzealous” gas company could drill a vertical well in the Marcellus shale region to get a foothold, the later convert the well to use the horizontal hydrofracking method later on, when the moratorium ends.

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