Bay Ridge

GOP says Albany ethics reforms do not go far enough

March 29, 2016 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie says the reforms are part of the assembly’s “continued commitment” to cleaning up Albany. Eagle photo by Paula Katinas
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The New York State Assembly’s efforts to clean up corruption in state government are noble, but don’t go far enough, according to a Brooklyn lawmaker who has been calling for major ethics reforms in Albany since she was first elected in 2010.

Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis (R-C-Bay Ridge-Staten Island) reacted positively to a series of reforms recently approved by the Democratic-dominated Assembly that included limits on lawmakers’ outside income, prohibiting payments for referrals when no services are rendered and closing the limited liability company (LLC) loophole that allowed elected officials to skirt campaign finance rules.

But the reforms still allow the Assembly speaker to remain all-powerful, and that’s not a good thing, Malliotakis said. On March 15, the Assembly voted 137-4 in favor of the proposed reforms.

“While we are certainly taking a step in the right direction to improve the dysfunctional culture perpetuated in Albany, the measures still do not address the root of corruption — the unchecked power of the Assembly speaker and his ability to influence votes and actions by members. We continue to give the speaker complete control over matters such as staff allocations, committee appointments and the ability to unilaterally stop legislation,” Malliotakis said in a statement.

Malliotakis has called for term limits for the speaker and committee chairs. “If we really want to restore fairness and accountability to our democratic process, then we need to address these points,” she said.

The Republican-conservative Malliotakis, a member of the minority party in the Assembly, has been advocating for ethics reform since she was elected to her post nearly six years ago. During the tenure of former Speaker Sheldon Silver, she repeatedly called for his resignation.

Silver was convicted of corruption charges last year.

State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) said in a statement that the passage of the ethics reform measures reflected the Assembly majority’s “continued commitment” to restoring trust in government.

“The vast majority of people who come to Albany do so for the right reasons. However, we cannot ignore the fact that there have been ethical issues that have cast a pall over our state government,” he stated.

Two key components of the reform package are limiting outside income and prohibiting a legislator from leveraging his or her public office for financial gain, according to Heastie.

“Under the proposal, a legislator’s outside income may not exceed 40 percent of the annual salary of New York state Supreme Court justices. Therefore, no sitting legislator would earn more in outside income than their base salary. Additionally, the bill would prohibit a legislator from receiving any payment for the use of his or her name in promotional materials, such as letterhead or websites, unless the legislator performs work for the firm,” the speaker stated.

In addition, the legislation seeks to closes the LLC loophole by lowering the limits on campaign contributions for LLCs to the same $5,000 limit applied to corporations. “The bill would also require full disclosure of the true owners behind a LLC that makes political contributions. To ensure that ‘hard money’ and ‘housekeeping money’ do not co-mingle, separate accounts would be required for each,” Heastie stated.

Malliotakis said that some of the reforms approved by the Assembly were suggestions she had made. “I am pleased that the Assembly has adopted reforms to its operations, especially my proposals to broadcast all committee meetings and provide public access to committee votes,” she said.

 


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