Public Authorities Reform Bill Passes Both Houses
While the agenda of the Legislature has been thrown into disarray by recent political instability in the State Senate, on July 16, 2009, the Senate took a major step toward substantial reform of the State’s public authorities by joining the Assembly in passing the Public Authority Accountability Act of 2009. The bill, introduced by Assemblymember Richard Brodsky and State Senator Bill Perkins, had already passed the Assembly on June 17th. As a member of the Assembly Committee on Corporations, Authorities, and Commissions and an advocate for greater accountability in State government, Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh has been a strong supporter of the bill, helping to vote it out of committee and voting for it on the Assembly floor.
Billions of dollars are expended each year by hundreds of public authorities throughout the State, with little effective oversight. This bill would:
- Create an independent Authorities Budget Office with the staff and budget to provide financial review and oversight of all public authorities;
- Close loopholes that allow public authorities to dispose of public property without proper consideration;
- Strengthen provisions governing public authorities’ boards of directors, for example by ensuring that they have a legal fiduciary duty to the public purpose of the organization and a qualified audit committee;
- Give the State Comptroller the power to approve or disapprove public authority contracts over $1 million;
- Create strict new rules to control public authority debt;
- Limit the ability of public authorities to create new subsidiaries or affiliates;
- Protect whistleblowers who report wrongdoing at public authorities; and
- Make public authorities subject to the same requirements regarding minority and women’s business enterprises that other State entities follow.
Now that both houses have approved the bill, Assemblymember Kavanagh hopes that Governor David Paterson will sign it into law promptly.