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Common Cause: Paterson's Veto "Right Move"
February 2nd, 2010

While most good government groups are quite upset that Gov. David Paterson vetoed the legislature ethics package, Common Cause/NY is hailing the move. New York Public Interest Research Group, League of Women Voters and Citizens Union all backed the legislature’s plan while Common Cause endorsed Paterson’s more sweeping reform package.(Citizens Union’s sister organization, Citizens Union Foundation, publishes the Gotham Gazette.)

Common Cause/NY acknowledged Paterson’s package would not likely pass through both houses of the legislature but insisted they could not settle for what the legislature was willing to act on. “I think it’s very disappointing,” Lerner said of the legislature’s legislation the week it was announced. “I don’t think it should be enacted. We are not looking at it in terms of who proposed what. We are asking, ‘Is this enough change to current law to address the crisis of corruption?’”

Now Lerner is calling on Paterson to lead negotiations for new, more sweeping legislation. The three other good government groups want the legislature to override Paterson’s veto.

Here is the statement from Common Cause/ NY executive director Susan Lerner:

“Governor Paterson did the right thing today in vetoing the Legislature’s ethics reform bill, as, in its current form, it doesn’t address the public’s primary concerns regarding ethics oversight: independence and uniformity. The current ethics crisis in state government demands bold action, not small steps. The Governor must now lead open negotiations with the members of the Legislature and the leaders who have pushed for ethics reform in order to achieve a stronger, more comprehensive measure. We were encouraged to read that at least one discussion has already taken place. The Legislature has taken a positive first step down this road and it is the Governor’s responsibility to support further progress, not simply to rain on that parade. Likewise, the Legislature must not allow pride, a sense of ownership, or politics to get in the way of progress — they must enter negotiations with the Governor in good faith in order to accomplish the better, stronger ethics reform b! ill that New Yorkers expect.”

Here is the statement from New York Public Interest Group, League of Women Voters and Citizens Union:

CIVIC GROUPS CRITICIZE GOVERNORS VETO OF ETHICS LEGISLATION

URGES LEGISLATURE TO OVERRIDE

Our organizations are deeply disappointed that the governor has vetoed important ethics reform legislation. We wish that the governor has not chosen to be an obstacle to reform, but since he has taken that action we urge the legislature to move swiftly and enact the ethics reform legislation over the objections of the governor. The ethics legislation, if enacted, makes important changes to state law:

Critical changes to executive branch ethics

Unlike previous executive branch ethics agencies, the legislation proposes that no one elected official chooses a majority of the appointments to the commission.

The legislation grants to the commission the crucial power to randomly review ethics filings to ensure honesty and accuracy.

Critical changes to lobbying oversight

All state and municipal lobbyists and their clients must report business relationships with state public officials.

Expands the definition of lobbying to include lobbying for resolutions.

Critical changes to legislative branch ethics

The most important change is that the legislation creates an office of legislative ethics investigation. This new entity would have a board that contains no lawmakers and no lobbyists, among other restrictions. In addition, the new office has the powers necessary to fully investigate complaints.

Critical changes to campaign finance enforcement

As proposed in the legislation, the State Board of Elections (SBOE) enforcement counsel and special counsel would have four-year terms with removal only for cause. The enforcement counsel would have power to initiate investigations. The legislation requires a majority vote of the in order to stop an investigation from going forward. Determination of violation and issuance of penalties would still rest with the Board.

Critical changes to disclosure requirements

Currently, public officials are required to disclose the sources of outside income and the value of that income within ranges established in law. However, those dollar-figure ranges are redacted from public view. Under the legislation those dollar-figure ranges would become public and a new range is added from $250,000 to $1,000,000.

Those required to report under the lobbying law would now have to report business relationships they may have with public officials. Such relationships are not currently disclosed.

Candidates would be required, for the first time, to file disclosure with the State Board of Elections in a uniform format that would be made available to the public on-line.

Expenditures by individuals or groups that are independent of the candidate, and thus were not subject to campaign finance disclosure, would be required to file disclosure that would, for the most part, mirror the disclosure of candidates. Thus, the public will know the names of those who contribute $100 or more to these groups.

By on February 2, 2010, 8:19 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany | 3 Comments »

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