Peace & Justice

This is the blog of the Commission on Peace and Justice for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, New York.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Ethics reform in New York State has been in the news for some time. Last month the state Legisalture approved a reform proposal which subsequently was vetoed by the Governor. This week, the Assembly voted to override that veto, but the Senate did not. The Brennan Center at New York University, which has called our Legislature the most dysfunctional in the nation, had the following analysis on their blog ReformNY yesterday before the vote.
Following on last week’s veto of the legislature’s ethics bill, legislative leaders are meeting today behind closed doors to determine whether they have the votes necessary for an override.

The good news is that the bill’s sponsor, Senator Schneiderman, seems to recognize that the legislature’s work isn’t done. Schneiderman introduced two bills, one more ambitious than the other, that amend the original ethics bill to move closer to certain reforms that the governor has cited as necessary for the legislation to win his approval. The two new bills each deal with different issues in the original bill, S6457. Notably, the bill that is narrower in scope has a "same as" number in the Assembly; the more ambitious bill does not.

On Friday, Senator Schneiderman introduced S6792, a technical corrections bill that addresses some of more basic points of contention in the debate surrounding the original legislation by making the following changes:

Explicitly grants the lobbying commission to conduct any investigation necessary to carry out its mandate, fixing the problem we and others identified with the commission’s mandate to receive referrals but inability to investigate them;
Establishes a procedure for addressing tie votes on the governing board overseeing the legislative office of ethics investigations;

Explicitly requires each conference to appoint one legislator and one non-legislator to the legislative ethics commission;

Creates additional offices on the Board of Elections with deputies of opposite political parties;

Requires the Board of Elections enforcement counsel to report allegations that she does not deem a violation of law to the Board of Elections for a second opinion; and

Allows the deputy enforcement counsel to review both preliminary and final investigation files and issue a public, written concurrence or dissent.

The entire blog entry is available here, as are several others that address this issue. We agree with the final lines of the current posting:
We’re glad to see some recognition that the legislature’s work on ethics is far from finished. We’ll be gladder still if both proposals are subjected to thorough public review.