Assemblywoman Sandy Galef, along with her colleagues in the Assembly, passed new ethics reform legislation today (A.9544/S.6457). The legislation promotes greater compliance with campaign finance laws and increases the disclosure of financial interests by elected officials, government offices, employees, and lobbyists.
“It is important to acknowledge and address the growing number of instances that demonstrate unethical behavior in the legislature,” Galef said. “This legislation is a tactical and well-planned approach toward transparency and accountability assuring that the public is better informed of potential conflicts of interest. It is very hard to work productively in an environment where there are violators of ethics. This legislation includes substantial and major steps to correct this shameful behavior”
The bill includes:
Campaign Finance Reforms
- Increasing the penalty for failure to file campaign disclosure forms from $500 to $1,000
- Creating a substantial new penalty of up to $10,000 for the failure to file required campaign statements three or more times in an election cycle
- Creating a new penalty for accepting an excess contribution of an amount equal to two times the excess plus a civil penalty of up to $10,000
- Create the Executive Ethics and Compliance Commission (EECC,) which would consist of six members that shall be appointed by the governor, attorney general, and the comptroller
- Create a Legislative Office of Ethics Investigations (LOEI,) which will be responsible for conducting investigations and enforcement policies; members of the LOEI will be detached from both legislative responsibilities and lobbying responsibilities; this will ensure that the members of the LOEI are free of the pressures, expectations, and manipulations of these institutions
- Establish a joint Legislative Commission on Ethics Standards (LCES,) which is responsible for the training and education regarding the Public Officers Law, and for oversight over the filing of financial disclosure forms as well as rendering advisory ethics opinions
The activities of the aforementioned committees will be summarized annually by the Committee on Open Government and reported to the governor, legislative leaders, the comptroller, and the attorney general before March 1 of each year. This bill will take effect on July 31, 2010.
Additionally the Assembly and Senate passed A.9559, S.6439 to prohibit the use of public resources for non-government purposes. Using state and local taxpayers resources for private gain will incur a penalty of $10,000 and/or one to three years in jail.
“This is important legislation to protect the public from the misuse of taxpayers money,” concluded Galef.