Assemblyman Brian Kolb (R,C,I –Canandaigua) is pleased to announce the Assembly passed the Public Employee Ethics Reform Act of 2007, which establishes comprehensive reforms to strengthen New York's ethics and lobbying laws. As part of this reform, a 13-member State Commission on Public Integrity will be created and replace the State Ethics Commission and the Temporary State Commission on Lobbying.
Believing that the reforms were rushed to the floor for a vote, Assemblyman Kolb proposed an amendment that called for a public input on this legislation, saying, “We are forming a brand new commission which appears to be a good idea but there’s been no public input on this very important piece of legislation.”
In the wake of the recent scandal involving former state Comptroller Alan Hevesi, the Assembly minority also proposed an amendment that would have stripped the pension benefits of any public official convicted of a felony, such as defrauding taxpayers. Both amendments were defeated by the Assembly majority; however, the minority is committed to supporting additional reform over the course of the legislative session.
Included in the ethics reform bill that passed Wednesday:
- Lobbying Reforms - Prohibits all gifts of more than nominal value from lobbyists and their clients, including travel, lodging and other expenses, and broadens the types of lobbying activities that lobbyists must disclose;
- Gifts - Prohibits all gifts of more than “nominal value” from non-lobbyists to public officials where such gifts might appear designed to influence the official;
- Honoraria - Bans virtually all honoraria for statewide elected officials, agency heads and legislators;
- Anti-Nepotism Policy - Prohibits state employees from participating in any personnel decision or contracting matter concerning a relative;
- Political Hiring - Bars non-legislative employees from asking about the political affiliation, contributions or voting records of prospective employees;
- Soliciting Contributions - Prohibits non-legislative employees from using their authority or influence to “compel or induce” any other employee to make political contributions;
- Running for Elective Office - Prevents agency heads from becoming candidates for any compensated elective office unless they resign or take an unpaid leave of absence;
- Taxpayer-Financed Advertisements - Prohibits elected government officials and candidates for elected local, state or federal office from appearing in taxpayer-funded advertisements;
- Revolving Door - Closes the “revolving door” loophole by prohibiting former legislative employees from directly lobbying the Legislature for two years, and expands the revolving door restrictions for Executive Chamber employees to preclude appearances before any state agency.