Buchwald’s Ethics Bill on Pension Forfeiture for Corrupt Officials Passes First Ever Assembly Committee Vote

June 10, 2014

State Assemblyman David Buchwald (D-Westchester) announced that his bill, which would strip pensions from corrupt officials who commit a felony in violation of the public trust (A.7173), has passed the Assembly Governmental Operations Committee by a vote of 9 to 4. Monday's vote represents the first time a state constitutional amendment on this topic has been approved by an Assembly committee.

“I am very pleased that the committee voted for meaningful ethics reform in Albany,” said Assemblyman David Buchwald. “This is a positive step forward for all New Yorkers, who I believe would overwhelmingly approve this constitutional amendment if it were placed on the ballot. The fact that convicted felons who violated their oaths of office sit in prison collecting state pensions not only damages public faith, but is a clear waste of taxpayer dollars. The time has come for a change.”

While New York State passed the Public Integrity Reform Act in 2011 to reduce benefits for public officials who abuse their power (Chapter 399 of 2011), it only applied to officials who entered into the state pension system after it became law. This new legislation would amend the State Constitution so that any corrupt official, regardless of when they took office, will know that they risk losing their taxpayer-funded pension.

Monday’s vote comes on the heels of growing momentum for A.7173. The bill has gained the support of two prominent New York good government groups, the League of Women Voters of New York State and Common Cause/NY. It has been endorsed by the editorial boards of the Journal News, Schenectady Gazette, Utica Observer-Dispatch and Watertown Daily Times. The bill is sponsored in the State Senate (S.1133) by Senator Neil Breslin (D-Albany) where it was included in a legislative ethics package endorsed by the Senate Minority Conference in May. The legislation has picked up 91 Assembly co-sponsors, representing well more than the 76 votes needed to pass the bill on the Assembly floor, and now a majority in the chamber support the measure.

Having now passed the Governmental Operations Committee, of which Assemblyman Buchwald is a member, bill A.7173 still needs to pass through more committees before reaching the floor of the State Assembly. It next goes to the Assembly’s Codes Committee. Since Assemblyman Buchwald held a press conference on the bill in March, thirty additional Assemblymembers have signed onto the bill, signaling the increasing recognition that there needs to be a firmer line taken again corruption in government.

Assemblyman Buchwald wrote a column this week for the publication City & State on the importance of passing A.7173, which can be read at http://www.cityandstateny.com/2/politics/new-york-state-articles/new-york-state-assembly/stop-funding-corrupt-officials.html.