Bad Day for Ethics as Minority Senators Block Reform Bills
As reported by the New York Times, the Daily News, and other media outlets, after a lengthy debate during its September 10, 2009 special session, the State Senate fell one vote short of passing important ethics legislation, with all Minority Senators present voting no. Due to Minority opposition, the Senate also shelved a bill that would replace the Commission on Public Integrity (CPI) with a stronger and more independent Executive Ethics and Compliance Commission; this latter bill already passed the Assembly with broad, bipartisan support and would address many of the concerns raised by the State Inspector General in a May 2009 report on the CPI.
The legislation voted down, S6157, was sponsored by Senate Majority Conference Leader John Sampson and Senators Daniel Squadron and David Valesky. If enacted, the bill would:
- Require random audits of financial disclosure statements filed by legislators and legislative staff;
- Require state officers to report their business dealings with lobbyists;
- Allow the Legislative Office of Ethics Investigations to initiate its own investigations, rather than waiting for a referral of a complaint;
- Clarify the definition of “lobbying” to include resolutions, and any other official action by the State Legislature;
- Extend the prohibition on the appointment of persons who have been registered lobbyists to the Legislative Office of Ethics Investigations from 2 years to 7 years;
- Create a dedicated enforcement unit within the State Board of Elections to oversee campaign finance laws and authorize it to initiate court actions to enforce the laws;
- Require greater disclosure of campaign expenditure information; and
- Increases penalties for violations of the campaign finance laws.