Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal (D, WFP-Manhattan) announced the New York State Assembly passed legislation to enact sweeping public authorities reform, stepping up accountability and shedding new light on the more than 700 public authorities operating with startling autonomy throughout New York (A.40012).
“Based on my frustrating interactions with public authorities in my past work on West Side community issues, I was eager to join the Corporations, Authorities and Commissions Committee when I was first elected and tackle this issue by increasing oversight and transparency,” said Assemblymember Rosenthal. “Public authorities were given free reign for years and their actions were conducted without any oversight whatsoever. I have seen a lack of fiscal restraint that is spurred in large part by a total lack of transparency. This will no longer be the case as these reforms take effect and public authorities are forced to streamline operations.”
Public authorities are quasi-governmental agencies created for a public purpose, such as the Metropolitan Transit Authority, public benefit corporations and the Thruway Authority, that operate largely without government oversight and with limited public scrutiny. Subway fair hikes have lead to increased contention between the MTA, straphanger groups and the millions of New Yorkers who ride the subway each day. With the new reforms, agencies like the MTA will be held more accountable.
According to Assemblymember Rosenthal, the Public Authority Accountability Act of 2005, which was the result of a two-year investigation into the mismanagement of New York’s public authorities, was an important first step toward improving public authority operations and oversight, but additional measures are needed to get and keep these agencies on track and functioning as they were intended. Recognizing the need for comprehensive reform of New York’s public authorities, the legislation Rosenthal supported delivers critical reform by:∙
- strengthening the Authority Budget Office by adding additional powers and responsibilities;
- adding to and strengthening provisions governing public authorities’ boards of directors, encouraging accountability and reform;
- providing the comptroller the power to pre-approve public authority contracts over $1 million that are not competitively bid;
- strengthening rules and closing loopholes regarding the sale of property by public authorities below fair market value;
- creating strict new rules to control public authority debt;
- ensuring that public authorities, including some subsidiaries, are subject to legislative and executive approval;
- requiring that state authorities maintain a record of lobbying contacts made in an attempt to influence any rule, regulation or ratemaking procedure of such authority;
- providing whistle-blower protections for employees of public authorities;
- requiring confirmation of the CEO/Executive Director of the Dormitory Authority, Thruway Authority, Power Authority, and Long Island Power Authority; and
- strengthening labor agreements for the development of hotels and convention centers in which a public authority has a proprietary interest.
“This legislation has tremendous support from the public and provides the reforms that New York’s public authorities need,” Assemblymember Rosenthal said. “Especially in difficult economic times, the people of New York deserve to know where and how their money is being spent.”