On November 18, 2009, the Assembly passed legislation, sponsored by Assemblymember Richard Brodsky and cosponsored by Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh, to enact sweeping public authorities reform (A.40012). The legislation will step up accountability and shed new light on the more than 700 public authorities throughout New York.
Public authorities are quasi-governmental agencies created for a public purpose, such as the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA), the New York City Economic Development Corporation, and the Thruway Authority, that operate largely without government oversight and with limited public scrutiny.
The legislation, which the Senate is also expected to approve and Governor David Paterson is expected to sign, reflects a widespread recognition of the need for comprehensive reform of New York’s public authorities. The new law would:
- Strengthen the Authority Budget Office by adding additional powers and responsibilities;
- Add to and strengthen provisions governing public authorities’ boards of directors, encouraging accountability and reform;
- Provide the Comptroller the power to pre-approve public authority contracts over $1 million that are not competitively bid;
- Strengthen rules and close loopholes regarding the sale of property by public authorities below fair market value;
- Create strict new rules to control public authority debt;
- Ensure that public authorities, including some subsidiaries, are subject to legislative and executive approval;
- Require that State authorities maintain a record of lobbying contacts made in an attempt to influence any rule, regulation, or ratemaking procedure of such authority;
- Provide whistle-blower protections for employees of public authorities;
- Require public confirmation of the CEO/Executive Director of the Dormitory Authority, Thruway Authority, Power Authority, and Long Island Power Authority; and
- Strengthen labor agreements for the development of hotels and convention centers in which a public authority has a proprietary interest.