New York State Assembly
THE NEW YORK STATE ASSEMBLY
COMMITTEE ON OVERSIGHT, ANALYSIS AND INVESTIGATION
THE 2003 ANNUAL REPORT
December 31, 2003
The Honorable Sheldon Silver
Dear Speaker Silver:
It is with great pride that I present to you the 2003 Annual Report of the Assembly Standing Committee on Oversight, Analysis and Investigation. Contained within this report are summaries of the Committee’s major projects during 2003. Also included are previous project reviews and planned future activities.
As you know, the Oversight Committee acts as the "eyes and ears" of New York’s citizens to ensure that State agencies are acting efficiently and responsibly and that New York’s laws are being followed consistent with legislative intent. Among the oversight activities the Committee investigated in 2003 were:
As Chair of the Oversight Committee, I have been privileged to work with you, the Chairs of other Assembly Standing Committees and my Assembly colleagues. Our duty as legislators demands that we pay attention to detail and formulate sound policy based on what we learn. This Committee fulfills its mandate to strengthen accountability and efficiency of the State while protecting our neediest citizens.
This annual report is dedicated to the memory of Assemblyman Jacob Gunther, a majority Member on the Assembly Committee on Oversight, Analysis and Investigation from 2001 until his death in 2003. "Jake," as he was known, requested his assignment to the Oversight Committee because he recognized its importance to the people of this State. Jake believed that ensuring compliance with laws and programs passed by the Legislature would make the lives of his friends and neighbors safer. To his wife Aileen and their three children, we thank you for sharing Jake with the Oversight family.
This annual report also recognizes the tremendous contributions to the Committee’s work by staff member Virginia "Ginny" Rosenbloom. In January of 2003, Ginny was involved in a tragic car accident. Since that time, Ginny has been recuperating and receiving treatment for her continued care. We miss Ginny terribly and send her and her family our love and our thanks.
|TABLE OF CONTENTS|
THE ROLE OF LEGISLATIVE OVERSIGHT
Legislative oversight is the most effective means of enforcing legislative intent, ensuring that a program actually works, and promoting sound policy decisions. Oversight investigations shed light on government actions to ensure honesty and efficiency in the administration of laws. The oversight process considers whether programs operate in a manner consistent with the requirements placed upon them and whether funds are effectively spent. By providing key information on program performance and spending, oversight lays the foundation for sound policy judgments.
The oversight function is critically important now, as State and local governments continue to deal with the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Government and private entities must increase security measures at many locations across the State to reduce our vulnerability to further attacks. As the economy recovers, State funds must be directed to the most pressing problems and issues, and must be used as efficiently as possible.
The power of the New York State Legislature to conduct oversight activities is inherent in Article III of the State Constitution. The Constitution allows the Legislature to appoint Committees to investigate matters relating to the property and affairs of government and the State. The Constitution empowers the Legislature to modify and assign new functions and powers to executive departments.
Several laws and rules reinforce the Legislature’s mandate to conduct oversight. Legislative and Civil Rights laws allow a legislative committee to require the appearance of witnesses at a hearing. The State Finance Law reinforces the Legislature’s "power of the purse" by requiring legislative appropriations before any State monies are spent and by limiting the ability of the Executive to move money from within and between agencies.
The Assembly’s oversight role was strengthened when its House rules were amended to allow standing committees more time to focus on oversight. Specifically, House Rule IV, §1(c) was revised to require all standing committees to "devote substantial efforts to the oversight and analysis of activities, including but not limited to the implementation and administration of programs, of departments, agencies, divisions, authorities, boards, commissions, public benefit corporations and other entities within its jurisdiction."
The Oversight, Analysis and Investigation Committee plays a number of important roles in furthering the Assembly’s oversight activities. The Committee:
Reviews implementation and adequacy of laws and programs:
Conducts program and budget reviews:
Helps create a climate for change:
Acts as a resource to other Assembly standing committees:
Oversight actions help to ensure government institutions live up to their statutory requirements. A major responsibility of the Legislature is ensuring that programs are executed in accordance with legislative intent. With this goal in mind, the Committee on Oversight, Analysis and Investigation is charged with evaluating programs in New York State. Research, outreach, information gathering and legislative development were all employed to improve the level of accountability, honesty and efficiency of New York State government.
During 2003, the Committee was involved in a number of diverse projects, some of which had begun in other years. Investigations were sparked by recent events, the interests of the Committee Chair and other Assembly members, and some were done in conjunction with other Assembly Standing Committees and Commissions. Legislation was introduced and advanced to address problems raised during these investigations.
The major Committee focus in 2003 continued to be on security. The committee investigated the security of New York State’s and New York City’s water supply and the security of personal information in cyberspace. Additionally, the Committee focused on issues relating to children, including their safety from unsafe products in day care settings and their access to outdoor playground space. Consumer issues concerning cable television also received the Committee’s attention.
During 2003, the Oversight Committee continued its investigation of water security issues. The Committee’s work followed two tracks. One was to continue monitoring NYC Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) actions to strengthen in-City water security. This followed Chairman Klein’s issuance of the 2002 report, NYC Water Infrastructure; Is Security Water-Tight? See Appendix A for further details about this report.
However, the bulk of the Committee’s activities in 2003 focused on a statewide picture. Were water suppliers in compliance with Public Health Law (PHL) §1125? Were State and County Health Departments adequately performing their oversight and monitoring functions? The law requires water suppliers to file a water supply emergency plan (WSEP) which must be approved by the State Department of Health (DoH). The plan must include a vulnerability assessment.
In early 2002, Chairman Klein, together with Assembly Health Committee Chairman Richard Gottfried and Environmental Conservation Chairman Thomas DiNapoli, wrote to Health Commissioner Novello, seeking information about water supply emergency planning. The May 2002 response from the DoH’s Director for the Center for Environmental Health led the Committees to contact County Health Departments for some of the information. The State Department of Health advised the Committees that counties were acting as intermediaries between local public water suppliers and the State Department of Health. These additional letters were, for the most part, sent to a supervising entity, i.e. a County Health Department, State DoH Regional Office, or large scale water supplier.
Responses were received from most entities, including County Health Departments, the State DoH Regional Office administrators, State DoH, and New York City. In many cases the responses were deficient in some regard. In order to gain information on these systems, follow-up phone calls, e-mails and faxes were used to fill in gaps. Every county was contacted, and as a result, staff identified 379 water suppliers who filed a Water Supply Emergency Plan. This was far in excess of the 223 originally reported by the State Department of Health.
Two important actions took place in 2002 which drove the Committee’s 2003 activities. Chairman Klein introduced legislation which became Chapter 405 of the Laws of 2002. His legislation amended Public Health Law §1125, requiring that the vulnerability assessment of the water supply consider terrorism threats. Such updated plans had to be submitted to DoH for approval by January 1, 2003. At a meeting with the NYC DEP Commissioner in October of 2002, Chairman Klein was briefed on departmental actions to enhance in-City water facility security at selected facilities in and around New York City. These NYC DEP actions addressed many of the problems identified in Klein’s 2002 report. However, it was also learned at this meeting that New York City had not completed its water supply emergency plan, nor had it addressed the new Klein law that vulnerability to terrorism be assessed. This admission by DEP caused Chairman Klein to direct staff to broaden its compliance assessment of PHL §1125, to include compliance with the new Chapter 405 provision.
Throughout 2003, the three Chairs sent follow-up letters while Assembly staff continued communicating with the Department of Health and local Health Departments. Staff analyzed the data on hand and learned that the standard applied for determining which water suppliers needed to file a WSEP was different than what New York law required. This revelation led to additional follow-up with State and county officials throughout 2003.
In October 2003 Committee staff and DoH officials met to review water supply emergency plan issues and to receive information on the status of the approval process for the plans. DoH offered new numbers on which systems had gained approval and which had not. Unfortunately, this information showed that the majority of the water supply emergency plans still did not have final approval and many of the State’s largest cities still did not have approved plans. New York City’s plan had not even been forwarded to DoH. At this same meeting, DoH officials promised to provide a breakdown of approval status in order to better clarify where many of the plans stood in the approval process. As of December 2003, no response had been received.
Chairman Klein anticipates completing the Committees’ analysis and presenting their findings in a published report in early 2004.
On NYC water security activities, progress was made. The New York City Department of Environmental Protection announced the start of a community outreach program called "Water Watch." This program is intended to assist DEP’s environmental police in monitoring the safety of the Agency’s water supply facilities both in-city and in the upstate watersheds. This information was included in the first in a series of new committee publications entitled The Public Eye: Update on Committee Investigations. (See the Public Eye section of this Annual Report for more detail.) Additionally, DEP also outlined plans to implement security improvements at sites throughout New York City, many of which directly addressed issues raised in Chairman Klein’s 2002 report.CYBER SECURITY
If you don’t know what you have, how can you protect it? In this day and age of computer hackers, security breaches and stolen identity, an inventory of the State’s information technology (IT) resources is an obvious first step to ensuring data security.
In 1997, the New York State Legislature created the New York State Office for Technology (OFT) which included in its charge the securing of the State’s information assets. The Legislature directed OFT to account for State computers by conducting an inventory of the State’s information and telecommunication systems and to issue a report to the Legislature detailing those results. Section 206-a (12) of the Executive Law required OFT to submit a report to the Legislature and Governor on the final inventory by October 2002. OFT did not do so. Key Assembly Committees, led by Oversight, made repeated inquiries and requests for the report.
Concerned that New York State’s computer systems were not being accounted for and State expenditures were at risk, Assemblyman Jeff Klein, Assembly Governmental Operations Chair RoAnn M. Destito and Assembly Government Administration Chair David Koon released an analysis in February 2003 of the potential fiscal impact of failing to prepare a computer systems inventory.
The February release cited:
The February release recommended that:
Chairman Klein introduced Assembly Bill A.6977 in March of 2003 to require this more detailed budget information. For a more detailed discussion of this legislation, please refer to the Procurement section of this report. The Director of OFT promised a report by June 30, 2003.
In June 2003, concerned that the Governor’s Office for Technology had still not completed the statutorily required computer inventory, and worried by the potential risk this posed to computer security, Chairman Klein released For the Sake of Security. This report detailed the Oversight Committee’s investigation of State computer security and found that:
Assemblyman Klein’s June, 2003 report For the Sake of Security recommended:
On August 15, 2003, ten months past the due date, OFT finally sent a report to the Legislature. Entitled the 2003 Baseline Statewide Information Technology Inventory, the report fell short of satisfying all of the statutory reporting requirements.
After a thorough review of the OFT report, Assembly Members Klein, Destito, Koon and now joined by Ways and Means Committee Chair Farrell, wrote to OFT’s Director in November. They requested more specific data, as required by §206-a (12) of the Executive Law be submitted including:
Following Klein’s issuance of his cyber-security report, he introduced Assembly bill A.9184 on September 29, 2003. The bill provides innocent people with notice that their personal information may have been compromised by a computer hacker. This bill requires any State agency or business with a computerized database which includes vulnerable personal information to disclose any breach of security to any resident of New York State whose personal information may have been acquired by an unauthorized person. This bill also addresses how an agency is to respond when personal information is exposed and what the enforcement provisions are if such an act should occur.
In other action to secure the private information of internet users, Assembly Member Klein and 24 other Assembly members sponsored Assembly bill A.4385, known as the "New York State Internet Privacy Law." This legislation would create rigorous privacy rules, which New York State could enforce against web site operators who hold out to the public that they offer privacy protection.
After the publication of For the Sake of Security, the Office for Technology took a number of steps to address problems raised in the Assembly report including:
New York State’s government computers store information about the State’s critical infrastructures, personal data, infectious diseases, criminal records, financial documents and more. The violation of computer security costs millions of dollars, can be life threatening and erodes the trust between government and the citizens it serves. Assemblyman Klein will continue to monitor, legislate and investigate cyber security in New York State.
Chairman Jeff Klein has had a longstanding interest in the issue of product recalls, particularly as it relates to children’s products. His primary concern has been to ensure better consumer awareness and to provide parents with additional reassurance that their day care choices are safe and secure. To that end, Chairman Klein introduced the New York Children’s Product Safety Act (A.6450). The Act seeks to accomplish a number of objectives relative to unsafe and recalled children’s products. The Act’s key provisions include:
The Committee researched the laws and regulations pertaining to recalled products and the duties of State and local agencies for monitoring and inspecting child care facilities. Assemblyman Klein and Committee staff worked in partnership with the State Office of Children and Family Services, the NYS Child Care Coordinating Council, and with the State Attorney General and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (NYCDOH) to ensure that day care settings are free from unsafe products. As a result of these efforts, a number of steps have already been taken by OCFS, including:
A December 2003 report issued by the New York State Attorney General ("The Attorney General’s Thrift Shop Initiative: Removing Dangerous Children’s and Other Consumer Products from the Secondary Marketplace") and the New York Public Interest Research Group’s (NYPIRG) 2003 Toy Safety Report ("Trouble in Toyland"), both noted support for this legislation.
Chairman Klein will continue to work with the Attorney General, OCFS, NYCDOH and advocacy groups like NYPIRG, Kids in Danger and the Safe Kids Coalition to bring public attention to this important issue. As these and other actions are pursued and take effect, Chairman Klein will reassess the scope of his legislation and pursue its consideration during the 2004 legislative session.
Outdoor recreational playground space at New York City public schools has long been recognized as an important tool to encourage school age children to lead active, healthy and physically fit lifestyles.
Chairman Klein’s Oversight investigation has discovered that the well being of New York City’s children is threatened by non-compliance with the State law that mandates adequate outdoor playground space in their schools. New York Education Law §2556(5) states, in part, that "it shall be unlawful for a schoolhouse to be constructed in the city of New York without an open-air playground attached to or used in connection with same."
Assemblyman Klein directed the Committee staff to assess compliance with the law, including examining State Education Department oversight of New York City facilities, and the status of educational recreational facilities in New York City. Assemblyman Klein’s report No Room In The Playground was issued in September of 2003. It revealed inadequate outdoor recreation space available to New York City’s elementary school children. The Report also found that State and City agencies failed to consider outside playground space as both a priority measure and a mandatory requirement according to New York Education Law §2556 (5).
Among the report’s findings, Chairman Klein found:
In releasing his report, Chairman Klein said "Our kids need to be outside and moving, in order to experience healthy play and exercise. These are important life lessons and our schools must be equipped with the facilities to ensure these lessons can be taught."
The Committee Report recommended that:
Following release of the Report, the Committee had a number of meetings with the State Education Department regarding enforcement of the law. Assemblyman Klein plans to introduce legislation ensuring that any changes to existing playground space not be permitted unless an alternative plan, approved by the Commissioner, provides space of at least equal size for outdoor recreational activities. This legislation will ensure that whether a school is constructed or leased, it must provide open-air schoolhouse playgrounds and when that is not possible, it must provide for adequate alternatives. Klein also will monitor efforts by the State Education Department and the New York City Department of Education to address other report recommendations.
In response to rising cable TV prices, the Oversight Committee conducted a survey in 2003 of cable prices throughout New York State. The survey included the three major cable companies serving the vast majority of cable customers in New York. New York City, suburban and upstate jurisdictions were included in the survey.
The survey results were published in a report entitled Time to Change the Channel: Cable Television Prices in New York State, which was released in March 2003. The report set forth specific prices for each of the cable companies, and compared their rates and programming offerings in different parts of the State.
The Committee’s original purpose was simply to gather rate and programming information. However, in the course of conducting the survey, it became obvious that the rate and programming information that cable companies made available to consumers was inadequate. Too often, the information was incomplete, confusing, or simply not available. The report’s specific findings and recommendations were:
Legislation will be introduced in 2004 based on the report’s recommendations to require that cable companies supply rate and programming information in plain language and that such information should specify consumer premium and pay-per-view options and rates.
The Oversight Committee has spent years investigating and uncovering serious problems with procurement practices in New York State. Most notable is the CONNECTIONS debacle which spurred the Committee’s broader involvement in procurement law reform and to ensure more accountability in purchasing practices. Efforts to improve, recommend and create effective new laws addressing this important and crucial portion of the State’s economy were continued in 2003.
A. 6977-A: Budgeting for Information Technology
A. 3730: Responsible Bidders Database Act
Individual agencies and authorities each collect bidder background and history information. Currently, there is no functioning system for storing and exchanging the information among all of the agencies and authorities. They do not benefit from the knowledge of another agency’s good or bad experience. Sound management practice requires that agencies and authorities have a coherent system for regularly exchanging accurate information. The lack of information can have costly consequences.
Data would be fed into a centralized location from a number of sources: self-reported information from bidders; agencies’ investigations of bidders’ responsibility; and agencies’ reports of contractor performance on earlier contracts. Maintained by the State Comptroller, who now maintains a database of all State contracts, agencies would be able to tap into the database and consider the information when making their responsibility determinations.
This new State database will be allowed to exchange information with the City’s Vendex system. The end result will be more information in the hands of the State and the City, helping both carry out their lawful responsibilities. This legislation was passed by the Assembly on June 20, 2003.
A.4651: This bill would limit abuses of the
"emergency" exception to bidding rules.
A.4652: This bill would allow a losing bidder to appeal the legality of a contract award. The National Association of State Purchasing Officials (NASPO) recommends a statute that requires a regulatory scheme for allowing bid protests. The Comptroller currently has an informal system whereby a bidder’s complaints will be considered in the course of the Comptroller’s review of a contract. A few State agencies have similar sorts of informal in-house practices. These informal practices lack established procedural and substantive rules. The lack of a clear, coherent bid protest mechanism undermines the credibility of the entire procurement system. This bill would require the Comptroller to promulgate the appropriate regulations, ancillary to his existing contract review and approval responsibilities. This legislation was reported by the Ways and Means Committee to the floor.
A.4736: This bill would require State agencies to use greater specificity in planning how to judge proposals for contracts and requests for proposals (RFP). The Committee found that agencies sometimes establish only vague specifications and methods for rating proposals before requesting proposals. This sometimes allows an agency to manipulate specifications and rating schemes after proposals are received, in order to favor one proposer over another. This is contrary to the procurement law’s guiding principles of transparency, objectivity and fairness found in State Finance Law §163 (2) (b). This bill would require greater particularity in planning for and requesting RFPs which will enable proposers to better understand the State’s needs, thereby allowing them to make better proposals. This legislation was reported by the Ways and Means Committee to the floor.
A.4532: This bill enacts the "Municipal Competitive Bidding
The Assembly has historically been the defender of the elderly and mentally ill in the State of New York. Adult Homes in Crisis: Plan for Reform, a June 2002 report from the Assembly Committees on Health, Mental Health, Aging and Oversight, and the October 2002 report, Broken Promises, Broken Lives; A Report on the Status of the Mental Health Delivery System in New York State from the Assembly Mental Health Committee Chair, Martin Luster, focused the Oversight Committee’s attention in 2003 on:
Throughout 2003, the Oversight Committee worked with the Assembly Committees on Health, Mental Health and Aging investigating ways to reinvest the State’s resources into expanded community based services, enriched housing programs for the chronically mentally ill, and to ensure the appropriateness and quality of care. Early in the year, the Assembly Committees met with the Attorney General’s office regarding enforcement activities concerning problems in adult homes.
In June of 2003, the Assembly passed A.8689, a long-range reform effort aimed at the creation of a comprehensive system of community-based mental health care, intended to address the abuse and neglect of New York’s most vulnerable populations. Through a series of public hearings into the health, safety and welfare of residents in adult homes, the Legislature found that mentally ill individuals are being warehoused in adult homes due to a lack of housing options. This bill strengthens the existing authority granted to the Governor’s agencies to regulate adult homes through inspection teams that will inspect and assess the appropriateness of the services provided to residents. In addition, the bill makes immediate changes to the law to give the Attorney General increased prosecutorial powers in cases related to adult homes, financed from increased fines collected from facilities giving unsatisfactory care to residents. This bill also establishes a Temporary Advisory Council to examine a range of issues relevant to the reform of the adult home model of residential care.
Assemblymen Klein, Gottfried, Rivera and Englebright urged the Assembly in 2003 to continue to fund $100,000 for the Coalition of the Institutionalized Aged and Disabled (CIAD) program. CIAD provides essential non-legal advocacy and organizing assistance to adult home residents. The Assembly also was able to restore $4,000,000 for the adult care facility Quality Incentive Payment Program.
The Committee will continue to work with the Assembly Health, Aging and Mental Health Committees to seek reform and improvement in the administration of adult home institutions.
In March 2003, Assemblyman Klein released the first in a series of updates detailing his work as Chair of the New York State Assembly Oversight, Analysis and Investigation Committee. The "Public Eye" is intended to keep the public informed of Oversight Committee investigations and to track remedial actions that are taken to address problems identified. The Committee’s mission is to review the implementation and the adequacy of laws and programs to ensure compliance by the public and government agencies. Through its monitoring and investigative activities, the Committee seeks to determine whether programs are operating as required and whether allocated funds are spent in accordance with legislative intent. Five "Public Eyes" were released in 2003. Following are summaries of The Public Eye: Update on Committee Investigations released during 2003.
Public Eye #1: Released in March 2003.
Public Eye #2: Released in May 2003.
Public Eye #3: Released in August 2003.
Public Eye #4: Released in September 2003.
Public Eye #5: Released in November, 2003.
Many of our Committee’s investigations resulted in legislative action - sometimes to clarify further what is already provided in law, and sometimes to address an absence of policy discovered during an investigation.
In the Projects section of Oversight’s 2003 Annual Report, a number of these legislative proposals have been discussed in detail. This section of the Annual Report provides a brief description of many of Oversight’s legislative initiatives. For a more detailed description of issues relating to some of these bills, please see the body of this report.
A.4385: NYS Internet Privacy Law: Creates privacy rules which
could be enforced against web site operators who hold out to the
public that they offer privacy protection.
A.4735: To establish a temporary State commission on personal
privacy to study personal privacy and to make recommendations
as to how privacy might be better protected.
A.9184: Hacker Disclosure Bill: Provides notice when
personal information has been obtained by a computer hack.
A.3730: Responsible Bidders Database Act.
A.4532: Municipal Competitive Bidding Enforcement Act.
A.4651: This bill would limit abuses of the "emergency"
exception to bidding rules.
A.4652: This bill would allow a losing bidder to appeal the
legality of a contract.
A.4736: Requires State agencies to use greater specificity
when judging proposals.
A.6322A: Improper Lobbying Influences.
A.6977: Budgeting for Information Technology.
A.8689: To ensure that NYS Adult Home residents receive appropriate
care and services according to their individualized needs.
A.4530: State notification of foster home decertification
A.6450: New York Children’s Product Safety Act: Prohibits
the sale of certain products unsafe for children and the use
thereof in daycare facilities.
A.4531: Requires a deferred installment plan to small business
for telephone service installation, initiation and non-recurring
A.4734: Paperwork Reduction Bill would eliminate unnecessary
reporting requirements, modify the frequency of other reports
and tighten up and strengthen other reporting requirements where
|OUTLOOK FOR 2004|
The Committee on Oversight, Analysis and Investigation will follow through with some of the projects and issues that were begun in previous years, and will explore new questions and concerns in keeping with its mission to review the implementation of laws and policies established by the Legislature. Some of the projects that the Committee expects to pursue in 2004 include:
Water Supply Emergency Plans: Water suppliers are now mandated to take into account possible terrorist attacks when updating their emergency plans. The Committee will continue to monitor local government’s efforts to update their public water suppliers’ emergency plans. The Committee will continue to analyze that data and report its findings.
New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP): The DEP Police Force has jurisdiction over areas located within New York City. The Committee will continue to monitor DEP’s enhanced protection of in-City water supply locations.
Cable Television: Following the March 2003 release of Time to Change the Channel: Cable Television Prices in New York State, the Committee will introduce legislation in 2004 to protect and assist Cable TV customers. The legislation will be based on the report’s recommendations to require that cable companies supply rate and programming information in plain language and that such information should specify consumer premium and pay-per-view options and rates.
Procurement: The Committee will continue to pursue passage of legislation intended to provide accountability in State agency purchasing, information technology, bidding and contracting determinations.
Cyber Security: Following the June 2003 report For the Sake of Security, the Committee will track the report’s recommendations that the State’s information technology resources be inventoried, updated and made more secure. In addition, legislation to protect personal privacy against any breach of cyber security will be pursued.
Adult Homes: The Committee will continue to investigate ways to reinvest the State’s resources into expanded community based services, enriched housing programs for the chronically mentally ill, and to ensure the appropriateness and quality of care for all seniors. The Committee will continue to work with the Assembly Health, Aging and Mental Health Committees to seek reform and improvement in the administration of adult home institutions.
Children: Following the release of the September 2003 report No Room In The Playground, the Committee will continue to monitor any changes to New York City playground space and assist in providing adequate alternatives when necessary. Legislation will be introduced in 2004 to restrict the sale, lease or transfer of existing outdoor school playgrounds. Chairman Klein will continue to push for passage of Assembly bill A.6450, the New York Children’s Product Safety Act. This legislation aims to protect children in day care facilities from unsafe and recalled products and to ensure that day care providers do not use products that have been recalled by their manufacturers.
The Public Eye: Update on Committee Investigations: The Oversight Committee will continue to release updates that detail its work reviewing the implementation and adequacy of laws and programs to ensure compliance by the public and government agencies.
TIME TO CHANGE THE CHANNEL: Cable Television Prices in New York State - March 2003 (See page 10 for details)
FOR THE SAKE OF SECURITY: An Assessment of New York State Government Cyber Security - June 2003 (See pages 6 and 7 for details)
NO ROOM IN THE PLAYGROUND: A Report Examining Playground Space in New York City Elementary Schools - September 2003 (See pages 8 and 9 for details)
NYC WATER INFRASTRUCTURE: Is Security Water-Tight -- May 2002
The Oversight Committee began its investigation of compliance with security measures for New York City’s water infrastructure system in August 2001. Following the September 11th attack, the Committee accelerated its review because of the belief that New York City’s water supply could be considered a target for terrorism. As a result of this investigation, the report offered suggestions for upgrading security at water facilities in order to bring them into compliance with State Department of Health and Federal Environmental Protection Agency recommendations.
ADULT HOMES IN CRISIS: Plan for Reform -- June 2002
The Oversight Committee joined with the Assembly Committees on Health, Mental Health and Aging to investigate the poor conditions and inappropriate health care provided to residents of adult homes. An in-depth investigation included meetings with the State Commission on Quality of Care for the Mentally Disabled, the State agency responsible for investigating complaints regarding quality of care, advocates and State agency officials; detailed information requests to the Departments of Health and Mental Health; and public hearings. Many of these investigative activities, along with proposed reform legislation, were reflected in this report from all four Committee Chairs.
CONNECTIONS: An Investigation of New York’s Statewide Child Welfare Computer System -- March 2001
The Oversight Committee and the Committee on Children and Families released their joint report: Too Much, Too Little, Too Late. An Assembly Investigation of CONNECTIONS- New York’s Statewide Child Welfare Computer System. This report marked the culmination of a two-year investigation of the flawed computer system, which was supposed to help child welfare workers better track children in foster care.
Too Much, Too Little, Too Late details the Committees’ findings related to: problems with the CONNECTIONS system and their impacts on children and families; procurement issues; State agency management and administration of the CONNECTIONS contracts; and costs and fiscal impacts. The report also presents administrative, budget, and legislative recommendations. It is hoped that these recommendations will help get the project back on track, strengthen legislative oversight of the project and related costs, and ensure that similar problems do not recur with future large information technology projects. The report won the 2001 Notable Documents Award, in the category of Public Policy, from the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Losing Our Children: An Examination of New York’s Foster Care System - May 1999
The Oversight and Children and families Committees released "Losing Our Children: An Examination of New York’s Foster Care System," a report which detailed the Committees’ findings identifying factors that have contributed to the breakdown of the State’s foster care system. Specifically cited in the report were issues related to State Oversight, the implementation of State laws, child welfare financing, State agency administration, and the provision of child welfare services. The report won the Notable Documents Award by the New York Library Association.
Who’s Minding the Store? Is New York State’s Governmental Accountability, Audit and Internal Control Act Working? -- October 1997
The study was initiated due to the impending sunset of the Act on January 1, 1999. In addition, the years preceding the report had seen large-scale, top-level personnel changes as well as the elimination, consolidation, and downsizing of agencies. The report concentrated its analysis on the 34 agencies considered by the Division of Budget to be at the highest risk. The report studied internal control programs and internal auditing practices for the years 1994, 1995, 1996 and the first half of 1997. The report found that:
Of the 34 agencies examined:
Putting the Pieces Together...A Report Examining Computer Technology in New York State’s Public Schools -- May 1996
Given substantial expenditures on computers and other technology resources in schools, this report examines the numerous funding streams which support technology. It also begins to assess both schools and the State Education Department’s efforts to plan for technology. The report concluded that, for the most part, the computer is not integrated within the curriculum. The causes of this deficiency include: a lack of proper oversight of schools and BOCES Regional Information centers by the State Education Department (SED); 75% of computers are out-dated despite annual increases in computer expenditures; telecommunication costs for rural districts are prohibitively high; deficient infrastructure in many - chiefly urban - schools precludes computer installation; SED does not properly track several State aid funding streams; teacher training/staff development and technical assistance is under-funded; and there is inadequate planning for school technology.
To better realize the goal of computer integration into the education process, the report makes several recommendations. (1) SED should develop a long-range plan to overcome a persistent inequity in resources among schools and the inadequate levels of staff development/teacher training. (2) SED should improve its oversight of and outreach to schools, by creating a widely accessible clearinghouse of education technology resources, and statewide technology standards for schools. (3) The State needs to have a better handle on how technology resources are being utilized. The State should then look to more effective allocation plans, perhaps merging numerous funding streams.
The Cable Picture -- Assembly Oversight, Analysis and Investigation Committee Staff Report Examining the Industry and Regulators -- November 1994
Committee staff issued a comprehensive report on the performance and regulation of the cable television industry in New York. The Cable Picture provides in-depth analyses of the past, present and future of the cable industry in New York State, its finances, growth and practices, and the governmental bodies that regulate the cable industry. The report includes numerous recommendations for the State and municipalities to strengthen oversight efforts, and ways for the State to prepare for and regulate the emerging telecommunications industry.
The project began under the chairmanship of Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, and was broadened by Chairman Anthony Genovesi to evaluate those telecommunications issues relating to privacy, and to make recommendations for legislative action, if necessary. The investigation included: detailed surveys of cable companies and municipal officials; on-site visits and discussions with municipal officials and cable operators; interviews with the State Commission on Cable Television (CCTV), other State agency officials, private consultants and telecommunications experts; and, analyses of Federal and State laws and regulations, municipal franchises, and voluminous amounts of data and written material.
Closing Report on New York City’s Attempt to Award a $1.15 Million Contract Without Competitive Bidding - July 1992
This report, a follow up to New York City’s Attempt to Award a $1.15 Million Contract Without Competitive Bidding (October 23, 1991), concludes the Committee’s review of New York City’s attempt to award a $1.15 million contract without implementing the competitive bidding process. Based on meetings and information obtained from New York City government, the Committee determined that the City might have been able to follow accepted procurement procedures, instead of evading them, had it acted promptly to issue a request for proposals.
Required Reports Listing -- May 1992
This report compiles reporting requirements contained in statute and budget language from 1981 through 1991. The report was distributed to Assembly committee chairmen and staff and serves as another resource in evaluating program performance. The listing includes the legal citation (chapter or section of law, or both), which agency prepares the report, who should receive the report, when and how often the report is to be issued, and a brief summary of the report’s subject.
State Agency Report Filing With the New York State Library -- March 1992
After several failed attempts to obtain public documents from the New York State Library that were required to have been filed there, the Committee reviewed implementation of the State’s document depository program. As of 1986, the State Library had only one third of all State documents, which restricts access for New York State citizens to documents that would help them better understand and follow the operations of State government. Legislation was enacted, resulting from recommendations in this report, to improve government accountability through greater access to State government documents. (The report was awarded the New York Library Association’s third annual Notable Documents Award.)
Investigation into New York City’s Attempt to Award a $1.15 Million Contract Without Competitive Bidding -- October 1991
This report charges New York City with attempting to award, without legally required competitive bidding, a $1.15 million contract pursuant to the Safe Streets, Safe City Omnibus Criminal Justice Program. The contract was for a study to assess resource deployment at the New York City Fire Department (NYFD) and determine whether the NYFD should assume additional emergency response duties, and to determine where fire houses should be located. Although given clear instruction from the Legislature that the project is subjected to required procurement procedures, the City attempted to award the contract through the Research Foundation of the City University of New York, which is subject to less restrictive competitive bidding requirements than the City.
Interim Report Examining Certain Art Market Practices -- June 1991
This report details the findings and recommendations of an 18-month examination of New York’s art market practices conducted by former Oversight Committee Chairman Richard Brodsky and former Tourism, Arts & Sports Development Committee Chairman Joseph Pillittere. The joint-Committee examination was initiated after it was learned that Van Gogh’s "Irises," which sold for $53.9 million in 1987, was financed by a major auction house that used the painting as collateral for the loan. This type of financing raised concerns about auction house financing practices as well as high costs and public access to art. Based on hearing testimony and research, the Chairmen determined that certain auction house practices fueled both an increase in the price of art and the transfer of art from public to private hands, as a result of museums selling off, or deaccessioning artwork. The Committee Chairmen identified key issues, some of which Assemblyman Brodsky is pursuing through the legislative process.
Failed Promises: New York State Agencies’ Environmental Record -- March 1991
This report, issued by former Chairman Richard Brodsky and former Environmental Conservation Committee Chairman Maurice Hinchey, details the findings and recommendations of the Committees’ examination of State agencies’ environmental violations and the State Department of Environmental Conservation’s enforcement of environmental laws against State agencies.
The Committee Chairmen initiated the investigation in response to the magnitude of environmental law violations attributed to State agencies, public authorities and public benefit corporations. The violations were listed in DEC’s first annual audit, released in August 1989. The audit, required by Chapter 595 of the Laws of 1988, listed 440 environmental violations at 267 State agency facilities. While most of the agencies’ violations were for failure to obtain or renew permits or registrations, other included raw sewage released into drinking water above a sole source aquifer.
The Abuse of the Prevailing Wage Law -- February 1991
The Oversight and Labor Committees released this report after completing a year-long examination of implementation and enforcement of the State’s prevailing wage law. The Committees’ review was based on complaints about enforcement of the prevailing wage law and included extensive documentation of violations found through on-site field investigations, document reviews and a series of legislative hearings in 1990, at which witnesses from industry, labor and government testified.
An Investigation of the Public Service Commission’s Examination
of Wrongdoing in New York Telephone Company’s Transactions with
Unregulated NYNEX Subsidiaries -- September 1990
The PSC did order an investigation of NYTEL’s purchases from NYNEX subsidiaries. After many years of litigation and procedural wrangling, the presiding Administrative Law Judge in 1996 recommended that NYNEX refund $300 million to consumers. In 1997, the PSC ultimately ordered a refund in the amount of $83 million to compensate consumers for NYNEX’s inflated prices.
Structural Defects: A Critical Review of the New York State
Uniform Fire and Building Code -- January 1989
The Committees examined DOS and DHCR compliance with a 1981 law establishing a uniform fire and building code for the State. The Code, enacted following the 1980 Stouffer’s Hotel fire in Westchester County that killed 26 people, was intended to better protect the public by establishing minimum safety standards throughout the State. DOS administers the Code and DHCR shares responsibility for ensuring compliance.
Through on-site inspections, interviews and a survey of all State municipalities (except New York City which is exempt), the Committees learned most localities adopted the Code and enforced it themselves, although the majority did not have a full-time employee for this function. Many municipalities engaged private contractors for this duty, and, in some cases, improperly delegated their "public power" function. The Committees’ report made specific recommendations dealing with DHCR and the Code Council, and DOS’s direct enforcement, handling of private contractors, training, financial assistance, oversight and the boards of review. Many of the Committees’ administrative and regulatory recommendations have since been implemented.
Shots in the Dark: An Evaluation of New York’s Target Crime
Initiative Program -- September 1989
Through surveys, site visits, agency files, and interviews with agency and local personnel, staffs of the two Committees found there was nothing very "targeted" about the TCI program in terms of either case type or case management. Localities were, for the most part, free to target any cases, in any manner, they desired. While not the original intent, the TCI program, as implemented, was little more than a mechanism to funnel non-targeted local assistance funding. To refocus the intent of this program, the Committee Chairmen recommended: codification of State-funded criminal justice programs; establishment of meaningful and measurable goals, objectives and priorities applying to each criminal justice component; creation of new reporting systems and steps to eliminate resource gaps; and creation of an intergovernmental working group.
Engineering Decision-Making Within the New York City Transit Authority -- March 1988
The Oversight Committee and the Subcommittee on Mass Transit Finances and Operations of the Committee on Corporations, Authorities & Commissions (then chaired by Assembly member Brian Murtaugh and Catherine T. Nolan, respectively) examined the engineering and management practices of the New York City Transit Authority (NYCTA). The investigation was spurred by allegations that the safety of passengers was in jeopardy because NYCTA hired unlicensed engineers.
Through hearing testimony, documents and correspondence, the Committees concluded that the NYCTA, at the very least, was lax in its placement of professional engineers in its chain of command. In several instances NYCTA advertised a job requiring a professional engineer, but then hired an unlicensed individual. This situation also raised ethical concerns for licensed engineers, who could have potentially been placed under the supervision of unlicensed personnel.
Lost in the Maze: New York State’s Multiply Disabled -- 1988
The Oversight and Mental Health Committees examined the implementation of a 1977 law created to ensure a comprehensive and coordinated approach in serving the needs of the multiply-disabled. The multiply-disabled population includes those in State psychiatric and developmental centers, under treatment by local providers, or on the streets. From 1981 to 1987, the number of multiply-disabled patients with mental illness and substance abuse problems increased nearly 90 percent and the number of patients suffering from alcohol abuse and mental illness increased 45 percent.
The report documents the specific failures of the Inter-Office Coordinating Council and its four constituent State agencies -- the Offices of Mental Health and Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities and the Divisions of Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuses and Substance Abuse Services -- to meet the stated goal of assuring gaps in services to multiply-disabled were eliminated, and traces how the administrative agencies essentially ignored legal mandates. The report’s recommendations were aimed at attaining better management.
Bleak House: Division of Housing and Community Renewal At the Crossroads -- June 1987
This report documents the Oversight and Housing Committee examination of the State Division of Housing and Community Renewal’s (DHCR) administration of rent stabilization and rent control laws. When DHCR assumed responsibility for administration of the system in 1983, it inherited a backlog of 104,000 cases, and some statutory changes created an additional backlog.
Numerous complaints from both landlord and tenant organizations indicated that the agency and the system created to handle the regulations were chaotic and that the agency was systematically violating the rent regulatory statutes. The Committees examined actions DHCR took to reduce its backlog, including rent overcharges and major capital improvement requests, the administrative review process, and DHCR resolution of tenant complaints.
Testimony from over 80 witnesses and thousands of pages of documents and correspondence collected throughout the investigation were compiled into this report. The report also contains recommendations for DHCR to improve its service delivery, many of which have been implemented.
PUBLIC HEARING TRANSCRIPTS
There were no public hearings in 2003.
Quality of Care in Adult Homes -- (5/10/2002 and 6/6/2002)
Charities Hearing -- (11/7/01)
On November 7, 2001, the Assembly held a public hearing in Manhattan to learn about the planned uses and distribution of charitable donations made in response to the attack on the World Trade Center. Oversight Committee Chair Scott Stringer co-chaired the hearing, along with Speaker Sheldon Silver, and the Chairs of the Committees on Governmental Operations, Codes, and Judiciary.
The Speaker and Committee Chairs sought to learn: how much money had been pledged and received; how such contributions are restricted and how they can be used; what needs will be met by federal and State funds and charitable organizations; what unmet needs continue to exist in the community; to what extent are charities coordinating their efforts; how is eligibility for assistance and the amounts of awards determined; will charitable gifts affect eligibility for State and federal benefits and vice versa; how should any leftover money be used; to what extent have there been fraudulent charitable solicitations related to September 11; and what steps should be taken to protect the public and legitimate charities from abuse?
CONNECTIONS -- (5/12/2000 and 5/23/2000)
Personal Privacy -- (5/12/98)
Foster Care -- (3/3/98, 3/5/98, and 3/18/98)
NY Inaugural ’95 and NY Transition ’95 -- (3/18/96)
Municipal Competitive Bidding Hearings -- (10/31/95 and 2/27/96)
Thruway Authority Hazardous Waste Site -- (10/2/92)
Beer Industry -- (2/7/91)
Art Market Practices -- (1/30/91)
Prevailing Wage Legislation -- (2/28/91, 3/1/91, 3/12/91,
New York State’s Beer Industry -- (5/30/90)
New York Racing Association -- (3/23/90)
State Agency Environmental Audit -- (3/2/90 and 3/7/90)
Prevailing Wage -- (1/18/90; 1/24/90)
Proprietary School Roundtable -- (9/7/89)
Cable Television -- (4/19/89)
Proprietary Schools -- (3/2/89)
New York City Transit Authority -- (8/11/87)
Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) -- (3/6/87
New York State Assembly
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