Assemblyman Brian Kolb (R, C, I –Canandaigua) is among the Assembly minority leadership calling for a major overhaul of the member item process. Kolb and his colleagues say that the current system needs transparency, accountability, and fairness.
“The current structure of the member item system is so convoluted it makes the member item system appear as an abuse of taxpayer funds,” said Kolb. “By overhauling the way member items are listed and distributed among members of the legislature, we can make this into a system that can have substantial value to the public.”
Until 2000, member items were listed in budget bills or in legislative reports, but in recent years the grants have been lumped together in a single appropriation, funded out of a special “Community Projects—007” account.
The Assembly minority conference has introduced the “Member-Item Integrity” plan:
- All legislators receive an equal amount of state dollars from their respective house allocation.
- All member items (including the governor’s) to be line-itemed in the state budget with the name of only one member sponsor, the organization receiving the money, detailed purpose for the money, dollar amount and the account authorizing the money.
- No money sent to any organization where the legislator or a senior staffer (those earning over $75K), or an immediate family member of a legislator or senior staffer, receives any compensation from the organization.
- Tougher sanctions and penalties against misallocation of funds and expedited means to recoup illegally disbursed funds.
- Annual review of all member items and report by administering agency counsel.