Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee (D- Pearl River) and Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski (D-New City) announced the passing of legislation to enact sweeping public authorities reform, that will step up accountability and shed new light on the more than 700 public authorities that operate with startling autonomy throughout New York. Public authorities are quasi-governmental agencies that are created for a public purpose, such as the Metropolitan Transit Authority, public benefit corporations and the Thruway Authority, that operate largely without government oversight and with limited public scrutiny.
“For years we’ve been acutely aware that the state’s public authorities are in need of serious reform. This summer, I supported legislation to streamline public authority operations and increase oversight,” Assemblymember said. “Too often, public authorities have lost their focus – burning through money and straying more and more from their mission statements. The Assembly has been a leader in recognizing the need for these reforms.”
A two-year investigation into the mismanagement of New York’s public authorities resulted in the Public Authority Accountability Act of 2005. That legislation was an important first step toward improving public authority operations and oversight, but additional measures are needed to get and keep these agencies on track and functioning, as they were intended.
Recognizing the need for comprehensive reform of New York’s public authorities, the legislation delivers critical reform. Through strengthening the Authority Budget Office by giving it additional powers and responsibilities, adding to and strengthening provisions governing public authorities’ boards of directors, and strengthening rules and closing loopholes regarding the sale of property by public authorities below fair market value, we are encouraging accountability and reform.
This legislation has created strict new rules to control public authority debt that will ensure that public authorities, including some subsidiaries, are subject to legislative and executive approval. State authorities will also be required to maintain a record of lobbying contacts made in an attempt to influence any rule, regulation or ratemaking procedure of such authority and provide whistle-blower protections for employees of public authorities.
“This legislation has tremendous support from the public and provides the reforms that New York’s public authorities need,” Assemblymember said. “Especially in difficult economic times, the people of New York deserve to know where and how their money is being spent.”