Updates from the Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions

Coalition Led by Assemblyman Brodsky Announces Reform Initiative Package
May 11, 2010

Assemblyman Richard Brodsky (D-Westchester), Chairman of the Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions and a coalition of legislators announced today a collection of 11 reform initiatives that improve New York government structure as well as addressing a variety of social issues like property taxes that are important in the lives of New Yorkers. This legislative package, authored by Assemblyman Brodsky, contains amendments addressing issues ranging from electoral reform to privacy rights to the creation of a bill of rights for New York State’s children.

“There isn’t a citizen in the state who doesn’t favor reform,” explained Assemblyman Brodsky, “but there’s been little in the way of action. It’s no longer enough to say what is; we must specify what will be. The time has come to be specific and real about what reform means in New York. Reform is not just reform of the political class, not just reform of government institutions but social reform. We have to address changes in the property tax system, we have to address the way we treat children and we have to address personal privacy protection. Everyone is angry and calling for change; we are stepping up and addressing the issues with real and significant solutions.”

Assemblyman James F. Brennan (D-Brooklyn) stated (re: A.4299A), “An independent budget review office will enable everyday legislators and the public to gain critical additional information on spending, taxes, and services. That is why I am supporting Mr. Brodsky's bill.”

Assemblyman Tim Gordon (I-Bethlehem) stated (re: A.10952), “Our state cannot afford any leadership vacuums; that is why it is imperative that a procedure be in place for filling the office of Lieutenant Governor. The importance of having a line of succession set in statute cannot be overstated; the people of New York State deserve more than having the filling of vital leadership positions left up to chance or the political winds of the hour.”

Assemblyman Bob Reilly (D/I-Colonie) stated, “Assemblyman Brodsky has again demonstrated his ongoing leadership in the area of governmental reform. While I believe personal integrity is the foundation stone of good government, I am totally supportive of this area of government reform. I am totally supportive of this important legislation to establish rules for the conduct of government.”

Assemblyman Robert K. Sweeney (D-Lindenhurst) stated, “With each passing day the need for fundamental reform becomes more obvious. We have to do more than merely putting fingers in the dike. The public is demanding change and this agenda will provide real, substantial and essential change and reform. It is not good enough to tell people what you are against, we must also state what we are in favor of. The current structure is not working; the reforms addressed here will start us down the path of restructuring and improving New York. I wish to congratulate Assemblyman Brodsky for this thoughtful package of legislation.”

The following are summaries of the 11 proposed constitutional amendments:

GOVERNMENT REFORMS:

Sweeping State Budget Reform (A.4299A): Creates a non-partisan budget review office in New York State and mandates statutory reporting deadlines for the passage of the state budget and budget hearings.

Statewide Code of Ethics (A.4252): Requires all branches of state government to adopt a uniform code of ethics for all elected officials and creates a separate ethics commission to enforce the changes. This ethics code includes full financial disclosures, special interest interactions and other potential conflicts of interest.

Executive Line of Succession (A.10952): Eliminates outdated law that strips the Governor or Lieutenant Governor of their powers when they leave the state and mandates that a sitting governor act expediently when there is a vacancy in the office of the Lieutenant Governor. This amendment also streamlines the impeachment process for both the Governor and Lieutenant Governor.

Non-Partisan Drawing of State Legislative Districts (A.4253): Requires the legislature to appoint a non-partisan commission to draw new district lines every ten years. The legislature is then required to either accept or reject these recommendations.

Electoral and Campaign Reform (A.4270): Removes outdated limitations on the right to vote by eliminating property ownership restrictions, and allowing absentee ballot voting without reason. This bill also mandates campaign finance limits, and merit-based appointments to Boards of Elections.

Unicameral Legislature (A.9875): Creates a 100 seat unicameral legislature, lead by the “Speaker of the Legislature” who serves as the chamber’s presiding officer.

SOCIAL REFORMS:

Property Tax Protections: Requires the legislature to order state finances so that property taxes do not cause economic hardship and dislocation.

The New York State Children’s Bill of Rights (A.9883): Ensures that children are protected against discrimination, have their basic rights viewed as a priority, and are protected from all forms of abuse. Additionally, the state must adopt uniform procedures that ensure safe and responsible child care while taking into account the rights of all parents and guardians.

Protecting the Rights of Working Men and Women (A.4933): Strengthens the law ensuring sanitary workplaces for local government facilities and public corporations and states that the right to a sanitary and safe workplace shall not be infringed by law.

Privacy Rights (A.4982A): Adds a provision stating that the independent rights of all natural persons to privacy shall not be infringed to the constitution. This would be the first mention of privacy rights in the state constitution.

Expanding First Amendment Rights (A.9874): Restores the traditional right of free speech to the state constitution by stating that free speech shall not be impeded by law in any area and requires that the state take all appropriate action to ensure the protection of these rights.