Contact: Phil Oliva, (518) 455-3756
For Immediate Release:
Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Ethics Refo. . .
Minority members call bill a "good start," efforts to improve bill thwarted by Majority

The New York State Assembly voted to pass an ethics reform bill today that would set higher ethical standards for public officials, significantly strengthen penalties for violations, establish an independent public integrity panel with far-reaching powers, and reorganize the Legislative Ethics Committee.

Assembly Minority members hailed the reform measures but said efforts to improve the bill even further were thwarted by the Assembly Majority.

Assembly minority members offered up two amendments to improve the bill. The first would have stripped the pension benefits of any public official convicted of defrauding taxpayers. The second would require public hearings prior to votes.

"Gov. Spitzer has been beating the reform drum and today we saw that Assembly majority members will only march so far to the beat. My conference and I wanted to keep going but Assembly majority members abruptly halted the parade," said Assembly Minority Leader James Tedisco (R,C,I - Schenectady, Saratoga). "We'll revisit these issues again."

Included in the ethics reform bill that passed Wednesday:

  • Lobbying Reforms - Prohibits all gifts from lobbyists and their clients of more than nominal value, including travel, lodging and other expenses, and broadens the types of lobbying activities that lobbyists must disclose;

  • Gifts - Prohibits all gifts of more than "nominal value" from non-lobbyists to public officials where such gifts might appear designed to influence the official;

  • Honoraria - Bans virtually all honoraria for statewide elected officials, agency heads and legislators;

  • Anti-Nepotism Policy - Prohibits state employees from participating in any personnel decision or contracting matter concerning a relative;

  • Political Hiring - Bars non-legislative employees from asking about the political affiliation, contributions or voting records of prospective employees;

  • Soliciting Contributions - Prohibits non-legislative employees from using their authority or influence to "compel or induce" any other employee to make political contributions;

  • Running for Elective Office - Prevents agency heads from becoming candidates for any compensated elective office unless they resign or take an unpaid leave of absence;

  • Taxpayer-Financed Advertisements - Prohibits elected government officials and candidates for elected local, state or federal office from appearing in taxpayer-funded advertisements;

  • Revolving Door - Closes the "revolving door" loophole by prohibiting former legislative employees from directly lobbying the Legislature for two years, and expands the revolving door restrictions for Executive Chamber employees to preclude appearances before any state agency.

The legislation also strengthens penalties for violations of the state Public Officers Law and state Lobbying Law. The maximum civil penalty for public officers who commit ethics violations will be increased from $10,000 to $40,000 plus the value of any associated gain.

Lobbyists who repeatedly flout lobbying laws will be subject to suspension.

The legislation combines the current State Ethics Commission and State Lobbying Commission and creates a new State Commission on Public Integrity with broad authority to enforce ethics and lobbying laws.

New York State Assembly
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