The Day Has Come for Ethics Reform in Albany

This week the Assembly passed legislation on a landmark ethics reform package that will curtail gifts from lobbyists to legislators, and create a comprehensive watchdog agency to ensure the integrity of state government (A.3736-A). This legislation was passed in agreement with the governor.

The ethics legislation will close loopholes, reduce the influence of lobbyists on the democratic process, and create a vigorous watchdog agency to ensure the integrity of state government. Specifically, the agreement would ban virtually all gifts of more than a nominal value from registered lobbyists to public officials, toughen penalties for ethics and lobbying law violations, and create a permanent watchdog on ethics issues.

The legislation also creates a permanent watchdog on ethics issues by merging the Temporary State Commission on Lobbying and the State Ethics Commission into a new entity, the Commission on Public Integrity. Both the Public Integrity Commission and the Joint Legislative Ethics Commission would be required to maintain Web sites and make publicly available notices of reasonable cause, disposition agreements, settlement agreements and summaries of advice.

In addition to ethics reform, a budget reform law was passed early this year which will enhance the Assembly’s efforts to vastly improve the budget process (Ch. 1 of 2007). Among the reforms, the law eliminates the $200 million in “lump sum” appropriations for local initiatives or so-called member items – an important step in cleaning up the budget process. The law also includes numerous common-sense provisions to improve the timeliness and transparency of the state budget.

I am now, and always have been, committed to fighting for the families in our community. To that end I’ve worked with the governor on several key reform measures this year. I partnered with him during the first month of session to make dramatic and sweeping reforms. We will continue to work together to get results for Onondaga County.

We’ve accomplished quite a bit so far this session, and there is a lot more to do. I will continue to work with the governor to enact a reform agenda, craft a progressive state budget, and create good-paying jobs to spur the economy for the people of Central New York. I look forward to continuing to make state government more open, efficient and accountable for the people of Central New York.