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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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."

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