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Albany begins to consider ethics reform

Mar 16, 2016 12:03 am
Matthew Hamilton reports in Capitol Confidential that it is Sunshine Week in Albany, a period to focus on government transparency, but there is little movement on ethics reform there. “In Albany, unfortunately, the curtains are tightly drawn when it comes to what the public can see in all these deliberations,” NYPIRG’s Blair Horner said of the three ethics proposals in the state capital. “… When it comes to ethics — where within a year both legislative leaders have been arrested, indicted and convicted of corruption in a state where there are no public hearings about it — what we see are nothing from the state Senate and almost sort of a dartboard approach to what the outside income limit should be in the Assembly.” The Assembly Democratic Majority released its ethics plan March 11 that includes a proposed cap on lawmakers’ outside incomes at $69,600, a number Common Cause NY’s Susan Lerner called arbitrary. In the Senate, the Republicans don't want any income limit. "It's a horrible idea. It's a horrible idea. The last thing we need is a bunch of full-time politicians to make public policy that dictate how much government needs to be in all of our lives," said Senator George Amedore (R-Rotterdam). Instead the Republicans' ethics plan creates eight-year term limits on leadership positions and strips pensions from public officials convicted of corruption. Governor Andrew Cuomo's plan would limit lawmakers' outside income to 15 percent of a lawmaker's base salary, less than $12,000 a year. The Assembly is also discussing closing the so-called LLC loophole, which allows single donors to give unlimited amounts of money to campaigns. "At the heart of both the [Dean] Skelos and [Sheldon] Silver scandals were limited liability companies that were either allowing no-show jobs or funneling in business or campaign contributions to both," New York Public Interest Research Group Legislative Director Blair Horner said about the recent New York scandals.