Assemblyman Dennis Gabryszak (D-Cheektowaga) announced that the Assembly, Senate and governor have agreed to a landmark ethics reform package that will curtail gifts from lobbyists to legislators, toughen penalties for ethics and lobbying law violations, and create a watchdog commission to ensure the integrity of state government.
“It’s vitally important that we strengthen New York’s ethics laws and limit the influence of special interest money on public officials,” Gabryszak said. “This will help to restore confidence in state government.”
The agreement will ban gifts other than those of a nominal value from registered lobbyists to public officials, strictly limit lobbyists from paying or reimbursing travel expenses of public officials, and prohibit public officials from being paid for speeches. In addition, it will require lobbyists to list their actions seeking grants on their lobbying reports.
The agreement will also toughen penalties for ethics and lobbying law violations. For example, the first lobbying offense would result in a civil penalty of up to $25,000 or three times the amount the lobbyist failed to report, and $50,000 or five times the amount that was falsely reported. A second offense within 5 years of a previous violation could trigger a one-year debarment.
In addition, the agreement creates a permanent watchdog on ethics issues by merging the Temporary State Commission on Lobbying and the State Ethics Commission into a new entity called the Commission on Public Integrity. The Joint Legislative Ethics Committee will also be overhauled. Both the Public Integrity Commission and the Joint Legislative Ethics Commission will be required to maintain websites and make publicly available notices of reasonable cause, disposition agreements, settlement agreements and summaries of advice.
“The new era of reform in Albany continues,” Gabryszak said. “I’ll keep pushing for more ways to make state government more open, efficient and accountable.”