Assemblyman Philip Ramos (D-Central Islip) announced today that the Assembly, Senate and governor have come to an agreement to greatly limit special interest money in state government. This landmark ethics reform package will rein in gifts from lobbyist to legislators; it will also create a watchdog agency to oversee state government.
Limiting lobbyist influence and strengthening ethics violations
“Restoring the public’s confidence in state government is something we need to take seriously,” Ramos said. “By strengthening New York’s ethics laws and limiting lobbyists influence we will once again gain the publics trust.”
Ramos stated that this agreement would, ban gifts other than those of a nominal value from registered lobbyists to public officials, the measure would strictly limit lobbyists from paying for or reimbursing travel expenses of a public official and prohibit public officials from being paid for speeches. This would also ban legislative employees from lobbying the Legislature for 2 years.
Under this new agreement, the first lobbying offense would result in a civil penalty of up to $25,000 or three times the amount the lobbyist failed to report or unlawfully gave or received, and $50,000 or five times the amount that was falsely reported. If a public official is found in violation the maximum would be $40,000.
Public Integrity Commission assigned to be watchdog
The new legislation also merges the Temporary State Commission on Lobbying and the State Ethics Commission into a new The Commission on Public Integrity.
“The Commission on Public Integrity will create a website that will guarantee that all of its work is open to the public,” Ramos said. “Having a new wide-ranging commission to handle both the state’s lobbying and ethics laws will better ensure integrity in state government.”
Two packages ensure transparency
This new ethics reform agreement is on top of the budget reform agreement which was passed earlier this week by the legislature. The budget reform agreement eliminates “lump sum” appropriations by requiring that they are lined out in the budget. It also requires the Legislature to enact a balanced budget and to explain the fiscal impact of its proposed changes to the legislators and public before a budget vote.
“I believe that both of these reform packages work to make our state government more transparent and ensure oversight,” Ramos said. “The people of this great state will now know exactly what is going on in state government.”