Assemblywoman Sandy Galef announced that she would reform the member item process with three pieces of legislation to be introduced in the 2007 Session. The bills will bring standards, equity, accountability and transparency to the member item process and prohibit the granting and advertising of member item awards close to Election Day.
“It is time to make the member item process fair to all,” declared Galef. “I have refused to engage in the practice because it is the wrong way to spend our taxpayer dollars. The disbursement of public dollars must be done in a way that benefits all our communities, not just a select few. I will introduce three bills immediately in January, 2007 so that all communities throughout New York State can benefit from a new and reformed process that promises transparency and equity.”
Member items are funded with taxpayer money and are distributed to each legislator in the Senate and Assembly. The Governor disburses member items as well. Legislators and the Governor have total discretion to allocate the monies to organizations, agencies, or programs in their districts. About $200 million was disbursed for member items in 2006.
Galef will reintroduce a member item bill that she has introduced in the Assembly since 2002. This bill amends the member item process so that member items are allocated to each legislator on an equal basis. The legislation would also mandate that the member item funding amount and recipient be made public.
Galef will introduce a new bill establishing a Task Force on Member Items. The Task Force on Member Items would make recommendations to change the current member item process. The Task Force will set goals, develop eligibility criteria, and make recommendations to the Governor and Legislature.
“While I believe that the member item process must be reformed immediately,” said Galef. “I recognize that my colleagues in the Assembly, legislators in the Senate, and the Governor may want to examine the process thoroughly before making substantive changes. The establishment of a Task Force with members appointed by the Governor, President of the Senate, and Speaker of the House will enable such a process. This legislation would require public hearings for public input and close consultation with the good government and civic organizations that have been on the forefront of this issue.”
Galef’s second new bill prohibits the disbursement and advertisement of member items within sixty days of the Governor, Senator, or Assemblyperson’s election. “I will urge my colleagues in the Assembly and Senate to move quickly on this legislation,” said Galef. “Elected officials often disburse their member items and advertise the disbursement in campaign literature within days of the election. This taints our electoral process and provides an unfair advantage for the incumbent elected official.”