On First Day of Silver Retrial, Assembly Majority Block Sweeping Ethics Legislation
Assemblyman Gary D. Finch (R,C,I-Springport) today expressed disbelief that the Assembly Majority blocked a public ethics reform bill that would strengthen campaign finance laws, codify discretionary spending transparency and set term limits for the speaker, legislative leaders and committee chairs on the same day disgraced Speaker Sheldon Silver’s trail begins again.
“You can’t make this stuff up,” said Finch. “Their former leader is on trial for corruption, and they block legislation that was drafted to prevent exactly that kind of public corruption from happening again. I’ve seen partisanship from the Assembly Majority before, but this is shameless.”
The disgraced former speaker was arrested for a scheme in which he provided a hospital with a steady stream of taxpayer-funded grants in exchange for malpractice referrals to his law firm.
Finch said this legislation would prevent that from happening.
“First of all, this legislation would shine a light on these discretionary funds. Instead of allowing the governor and legislative leaders to dole out grants from these slush funds, we should highlight every single project that is going to receive state funding in the budget, line by line. There is nothing wrong with allowing legislators to recommend worthwhile local projects to receive funding, but when there isn’t any transparency, you run into situations where powerful people like Sheldon Silver are using taxpayer dollars to fund their criminal enterprise. Taxpayers deserve to know where their hard-earned money is going,” said Finch.
Finch also said that term limits for leaders and committee chairs would be extremely beneficial.
“When the same people from the same gerrymandered districts control the flow of legislation year after year, it’s too easy for lobbyists and special interest groups to influence the process. Cycling new people into these positions means more procedural integrity and fresh ideas. It keeps people from amassing too much power,” said Finch.
Assembly Majority also blocked a slate of reforms earlier this year designed to reform the chamber’s parliamentary procedure and empower rank-and-file members. These measures would’ve ensured that each member received an equal staff budget, would’ve allowed each member to bring one piece of legislation to the floor for a public vote and ensured that lawmakers could petition for public hearings on important legislation.
“We’re going to keep fighting for ethics reform because our constituents deserve it.”