By Bill Parry
State Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) joined Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and several Democratic Conference members to introduce a package of “common sense” ethics reform legislation in Albany Monday. Among the proposals are bills that would effectively ban outside income for legislators, take away pensions from elected officials convicted of felonies, create a public financing system for elections and strengthen financial disclosure laws.
In addition, Gianaris authored two bills that would lower contribution limits for campaigns and prevent campaign committees from being reimbursed for legal defense fees.
“Our state is in desperate need of real ethics reform,” Gianaris said. “I am proud to author bills that would lower campaign contribution limits as well as prevent public reimbursement of campaign committees for legal defense, and I am proud to support the entire Senate Democratic ethics package. I hope Senate Republicans realize the urgency of this issue and work with us to immediately pass these common sense reforms so that the people’s faith in their government can be restored.”
The public’s faith in good government has been shattered by “arrest after arrest” says Stewart-Cousins, the minority leader from the Bronx. Following the arrest of former Speaker Sheldon Silver on federal corruption charges, she said it was time for the Legislature to avoid “another session of empty promises in the wake of yet another scandal.”
Former state Sen. Malcolm Smith, a southeast Queens Democrat, was convicted of bribery last week in federal court, one of several members of the Queens delegation who have been found guilty of corruption charges in the past few years.
The reform package comes less than a week after Gov. Andrew Cuomo threatened to not sign the budget this year unless it contained comprehensive ethics reforms, even if it leads to a government shutdown.
“The bottom line is that New Yorkers will never trust the government’s authenticity until they know the who, what and where of outside employment,” Cuomo said. “Either end it entirely or thoroughly disclose it. There is no middle ground.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.