Sen. Jeff Klein Tag All blog entries tagged as Sen. Jeff Klein Wed, 09 Jul 2014 21:28:22 +0000 Joomla! 1.5 - Open Source Content Management en-gb NY Legislative Leaders Make Big Bucks In Outside Income

The Joint Commission on Public Ethics has lifted the veil on how legislators make their outside income and, perhaps, where their loyalties lie. Legislators all make a salary of $79,500 a year for their work and are reimbursed for travel. Many also earn stipends for their positions on committees.

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The filings drawing the most interest from journalists and advocates are from legislative leaders who are also known to work for law firms — Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos and Independent Democratic Conference head Jeff Klein.

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According to his filings, Silver makes at least $350,000 and up to $450,000 a year as council at Weiz & Luxenberg. Silver has long been criticized for acting in the interest of trial lawyers.

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Silver was recently attacked for killing changes to the citys' scaffolding law that would have allowed juries to consider whether the action of workers had any impact on accidents. Current law puts the onus on the shoulders of the building owners and contractors. The changes were seen as detrimental to trial lawyers.

Skelos pulls down $150,000 to $250,000 a year as council for Ruskin Moscou Faltischek. The law firm recently set up a lobbying branch.

Klein earns between $50,000 and $75,000 a year in guaranteed payments from his law firm Klein Calderoni & Santucci LLP.

Legislators' investments and properties are also catalogued in the filings.

Silver reports having major investments in JP Morgan, Anheuser Busch, IBM, Hasbro, Disney and AOL. He also earned between $150,000 and $250,000 from the sale of Ford stock.

Skelos owns stock in AIG, Citigroup, JetBlue and others.

Other interesting investments include that of Sen. High Farley of Schenectady. Farley heads the Senate's Banking Committee and owns up to $75,000 in shares of Trustco Bank, which is headquartered in his district.

We will be pouring over these disclosures for the rest of the day. Feel free to join us and comment if you see anything that sticks out!

]]> (David Howard King) State Wed, 03 Jul 2013 17:13:47 +0000
Cuomo Unveils Campaign Finance Package At End of Session With seven days left in the state Legislature's session, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has unveiled a package of legislation to overhaul public financing of campaigns.

The package includes a 6-to-1 public matching system, an overhaul to the State Board of Elections and tweaks to laws that the governor says will make it easier to prosecute political corruption.

Even before Cuomo made his announcement today, Republican Senate Leader Dean Skelos told reporters he would block any vote on public financing of campaigns.

Cuomo announced the package knowing he didn't have the full Legislature's support and repeated a threat that has become a mantra for him: If the Legislature doesn't act on some kind of reforms, he will invoke a Moreland Commission with broad powers to investigate the Legislature.

When pressed if he was prepared to call for such a commission by the end of session, Cuomo snapped "yes" almost before the question was out of the reporter's mouth.

Earlier, Skelos had repeated a mantra of his own: "You don't govern by threats." Skelos has said he supports the general idea of part of Cuomo's plan — giving the Board of Elections more funding for investigators, for instance, but Skelos does not seem to have the drive Cuomo and other legislative leaders have over reforming Albany.

Cuomo seemed to hold out hope that the Legislature would take a chance on the package.

"We've had an overwhelmingly productive legislative session," Cuomo said when asked if he had faith in the Legislature.

And yet Cuomo's largest legislative pieces — such as the 10-point "Women's Equality Agenda" — face stiff opposition from Senate Republicans.

Advocates pushing for campaign finance reform took to Twitter, encouraging followers to call Independent Democratic Conference head Jeff Klein's office number and ask him to bring the package to a vote.

The IDC and Republicans share power in the Senate, and Klein and Skelos must agree to bring legislation to a vote. Klein has proposed a more sweeping set of reforms than Cuomo's and toured the idea around the state — something Cuomo has not done this year.

]]> (David Howard King) State Tue, 11 Jun 2013 17:12:30 +0000
NY Senator Goes Bill Happy During Slow Session Democratic State Sen. Kevin Parker, of Brooklyn, isn't interested in hearing about a dysfunctional Legislature mired in corruption and inaction. He's been busy introducing bills — lots and lots of bills.

Parker introduced 43 bills on May 16 — the Senate's last day of unlimited bill introduction.

The 43 bills run the gamut of legislative matters:

  • S.5442 would require the state parks commissioner to create a New York Abolition and Civil Rights History Trail.
  • S.5523 would create a pilot program for social impact bonds designed to lower recidivism in juvenile justice programs
  • S.5386 would require creditors to inform debtors that written communications are available in large print.
  • S.5446 would allow same day voter registration and voting.

Last month, Bill Mahoney of The New York Public Interest Research Group estimated that the Legislature is on track to duplicate their performance from last year when they passed the fewest bills two-house bills since 1914.

And Mahoney says that, as of now, the Legislature is still on pace to perform just as badly.

"With eight session days to go in 2012 (the year with the fewest 2-house bills since at least 1914), they had passed 139 bills. With eight session days to go in 2013, they have passed 123," said Mahoney.

Mahoney notes that there is still time for bills to gain passage in a second house as 432 bills gained passage in a second house in eight days last year. "They are, however," said Mahoney, "currently running behind last year's pace."

It seems that a number of major legislative proposals including ethics reform, public financing of campaigns, reform of marijuana possession laws, The DREAM Act, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo's women's equality legislation are likely to be jammed up in the Senate for one reason or another.

Members of the Independent Democratic Conference are being lobbied hard by a number of interests since they have publicly supported a number of these issues but have been unable to bring them to a vote. IDC leader Sen. Jeff Klein has to agree with Republican leader Sen. Dean Skelos on what comes to the floor for a vote and Skelos vehemently opposes public financing of campaigns and the abortion plank of the women's agenda.

It is likely that Republicans and the IDC will be eager to pass as many other bills as possible to deflect from criticism on failing to act on other major pieces of legislation.

]]> (David Howard King) State Thu, 06 Jun 2013 15:09:45 +0000
Following Scandals, A Bunch Of Plans For Reforming Albany Legislators returning from a spring break that saw the arrest of two of their colleagues on corruption charges find themselves in a new Albany where ethics reform is at the top of everyone's to-do list. And everyone has got a plan.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver unveiled his plan for public financing of campaigns today that includes six-to-one matching funds that would be paid for by taxpayers who opt in on state tax forms and with money recovered from securities fraud.

Silver's plan did not address the Wilson Pakula law that allows for cross-party endorsements. The law has come under scrutiny since state Sen. Malcolm Smith, a Democrat, was arrested on corruption allegations that he tried to bribe his way onto the Republican line for New York City Mayor.

The group that took perhaps the biggest hit from the recent scandal was the breakaway Independent Democratic Conference that had appointed Smith the chair of their five-memmber conference.

The IDC expelled Smith and, last Friday, issued its own campaign finance reform plans.

Those plans include a comprehensive public campaign finance system with a six-to-one match for candidates that opt into the system. It also establishes a minimum threshold a candidate must raise to opt in to the system while running for different elected positions. Meanwhile, candidates who choose not to opt in to public financing would face a system with far more restrictions and on corporate donations and contribution limits. The IDC plan would also create a statewide database to track campaign finance data and do away with the Wilson Pakula law.

For their part, Senate Democrats unveiled their own plan yesterday, which calls for the passage of a number of bills they have previously proposed. Among the proposals: Legislators convicted of corruption would lose their pensions, legislators could not use campaign cash for defense lawyers or for expensive meals and cars, and lobbyists would have to better document their spending. The Demcorats' proposal did not deal with fusion voting or restricting corporate donations.

IDC leader Sen. Jeff Klein responded harshly to the proposals from Silver and the Senate Democrats because of their lack of action on Wilson Pakula.

"The IDC appreciates Speaker Silver's commitment to public financing," said Klein in a statement today. "Nevertheless, our members believe that unless we repeal Wilson Pakula, eliminate party slush funds, and prohibit multi-million dollar transfers from party committees to individual candidates, then we will fail to address the fundamental problems of our current campaign finance system. The proposal put forth by the IDC last week accomplishes all of these goals and will finally deliver the type of reform that voters demand."

However, ending the law would effectively destroy third parties like the Conservative and Working Families parties.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo previewed part one of his anti-corruption plans last week. You can expect that he has been negotiating with legislators on some sort of package. We could hear an announcement from him as early as today. Cuomo has championed public financing but Senate Republicans have stood firmly against it.

Republican Spokesman Scott Reif told the Times Union earlier this week that "allowing politicians to use taxpayer money to finance their campaigns is not a solution."

]]> (David Howard King) Elections Tue, 16 Apr 2013 18:22:17 +0000
Silver Encourages Stevenson to Resign [Statement]

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is calling on recently indicted Assemblyman Eric Stevenson to resign. Silver just issued this statement:

Assemblyman Stevenson's alleged actions as outlined by the federal charges against him are a clear violation of the public trust and cannot be tolerated. I believe that given the evidence that has been presented, he should seriously consider whether he can continue to maintain the public trust. I am encouraging him to resign.

]]> (David Howard King) State Thu, 04 Apr 2013 17:04:13 +0000
State Budget is Looming Legislators say they expect to vote on a state budget by next week making for an extra-early budget. Of course lots could happen between then and now but legislative leaders continue to meet today and have hashed out their spending targets.

The joint budget conference announced they have agreed to $550 million in "table target" spending. Other targets include $60 million for health spending, $70 million for higher education, $40 million for mental hygiene and $35 million for human services.

Other parts of the budget remain elusive. It is unclear whether casino siting and a minimum wage increase will be in the budget. Advocates have swamped Albany online and in the Twitterverse targeting Sens. Dean Skelos and Jeff Klein to raise the minimum wage. Cuomo supports a $8.75 hike, while the Assembly has passed a $9 hike. The Senate budget supports an unspecified wage hike that would be phased in in installments.

A number of advocates have been focusing on Klein specifically because he and the Independent Democrats joined with Republicans to create a coalition while saying they support a minimum wage hike. Republicans have been vocal in their opposition to a wage hike.

“The time for excuses is over. Given the tremendous support by voters, community, faith, labor and business leaders, the minimum wage should have been increased last year," said Mark Dunlea of Hunger Action in a statement. "A majority of State Senators want to join the Assembly in raising the minimum wage to $9 an hour, with indexing. Sen. Klein has to show that his power arrangement agreement is something more than a charade to thwart the democratic will of voters and to distribute patronage to the minority Republicans and their IDC enabler."

Session is over for this week and Cuomo has said he will not issue a message of necessity to circumvent the mandated three-day aging process all bills are supposed to go through.

Sen. Joseph Addabbo headed back to his district this afternoon with a number concerns about the budget including the minimum wage.

"My main concern is is this going to be some watered down version of the minimum wage," said Addabbo who said he felt a budget was extremely near. Addabbo is in the minority in the Senate and his conference has little to know influence over what is finally decided.

Asked if he would vote against a budget with the wrong kind of wage increase or one that didn't have one, Addabo said he would not vote against the budget in either situation. "You know the alternative is shutting down the government and that is just not good for anyone. I think there is a lot of good in this budget and we will get it done." The budget is due by April 1st. Cuomo and legislative leaders could take a major victory lap if they turned in a spending plan a week or so early.

]]> (David Howard King) State Thu, 14 Mar 2013 20:36:43 +0000