Tedisco Proposes Member Item Reform

Assemblyman calls for passage of his “Community Needs Integrity Act”
December 22, 2009
Assemblyman James N. Tedisco (R,I,C-Schenectady/Saratoga) today called on state leaders to start closing the ethical loopholes that plague Albany and have shattered public confidence. Tedisco suggested that the governor, senate majority leader, and assembly speaker reform the member item process as a critical first step toward rebuilding the public trust. Tedisco pointed to legislation he sponsored called the Community Needs Integrity Act and said that a timely passage was necessary.

“The governor, senate majority leader, and assembly speaker need to stand with me as we tell the Capital District and all of New York that ‘enough is enough’,” Tedisco said. “We need to do everything we can to change the current culture in Albany. Reforming the overly-politicized and secretive member item process is a great place to start. My proposal would bring transparency, eliminate politics and geographic discrimination, and curtail the potential for abuse associated with the awarding of member item funds.”

Tedisco introduced the Community Needs Integrity Act (A.8991) to address New York’s overly-politicized member item system, also known as “pork.” Tedisco proposed creating a commission that would evaluate and overhaul the controversial member item process. Members of the bipartisan commission would work in cooperation with the Attorney General and the Comptroller to safeguard the integrity of the member item process. Commission members would be charged with establishing guidelines for prioritizing and ranking requests and then distributing funds evenly throughout the state based upon merit and need. To guarantee transparency, a list of the requests would be made available to the public by March 17 of each year and final funding decisions would be posted by April 8. The legislation also provides for sanctions for funds that are inappropriately disbursed.

“Too many public servants have forgotten that they are supposed to be, in fact, public servants,” Tedisco said. “Member item monies should not be treated as an extension of an official’s checkbook and their distribution should not be tied to politics. For far too long, majority parties have received and controlled the lion’s share of these funds. Despite the fact that their tax dollars pay for them, most New Yorkers have no idea what a member item is or how it is rewarded. Being able to secretly control vast sums of money is a temptation that our legislative leaders should not have to face. It is time to bring this process out into the light so that the taxpaying public can see exactly how its money is being spent.”