One week after it was introduced, lawmakers in
The bill contains a small but tidy list of positive measures: increased enforcement of campaign finance laws, and requirements that registered lobbyists disclose business relationships with officials and that lawmakers publicly disclose their income by categories.
But a number of very good proposals, including the Governor’s, were ignored, and deserve an open discussion and serious consideration going forward.
On a larger scale, ethics and disclosure laws have undergone revolutionary thinking in recent years and New Yorkers should insist that they have the opportunity to consider these ideas and compare them to best practices in other places. The Jack Abramoff scandals resulted in sweeping reforms at the federal level in 2007. Public financing systems in other jurisdictions, including
The last time the legislature addressed the issue of ethics reform was in 2007, when newly-elected Governor Eliot Spitzer, together with the leaders of the Assembly and Senate, cobbled the Public Employees Ethics Reform Act (PEERA) of 2007, the first comprehensive modification to lobbying and ethics laws in
The 73-page bill was unveiled on January 23, 2007 and adopted by the legislature without hearing or substantive debate a few weeks later. Then, as now, the problems with the system were obvious and comprehensive reform proposals had been circulating for many months. But innovative ideas fell on the deaf ears of legislators, who left in place the bifurcated, politicized system of ethics oversight that allows the legislature to police itself. Good government groups supported the law’s ban on honoraria and gifts; praise was faint for the remainder of the package.
Faced with an ongoing series of corruption scandals, lawmakers should sponsor open public hearings across the state, with an opportunity for citizens to voice their opinions, consider the variety of reforms adopted in other states, and air suggestions for improvements.