Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Today: A Forum on Ethics

A Forum?

The State Senate minority is holding a public forum today on a number of ethics reforms. Forum? Yes. Why not a hearing? Because the Senate's leadership doesn't want to have one.

New Yorkers again find themselves locked out of the discussion in Albany on a very important issue. The Senate's majority will not allow a public legislative hearing on ethics, so the Senate's minority is holding a "public forum" on the bills currently before the Senate. Liz Benjamin described a forum last week as basically a hearing without the official bells and whistles -- and apparently some of those bells and whistles are Senate A/V support, as the Senate minority will be hosting a video livestream of the forum on their own platform instead of the Senate web site.

Watch live streaming video from nysendems at

Hardships notwithstanding, the forum will be full-featured. Our own general counsel, Kelly Williams, will be on hand to give a statement and participate in the discussion along with representatives from a host of other major reform organizations like NYPIRG, Common Cause, Citizens Union, and the League of Women Voters. The whole event will be livestreamed here, and questions will be taken via Twitter -- use the tag #albanyethics to get noticed!

On the Ethics Bills

Our Kelly Williams will be talking about the failure of the Legislative Ethics Commission, the body the legislature created to police itself in the last round of Albany ethics changes, back in 2007. The LEC hasn't cut it, and we're arguing for an independent and unified ethics watchdog to oversee state government. Further, we're calling for a system where all elected officials, attorneys or not, to make meaningful disclosure of their incomes and, where applicable, their clients. Finally, we're looking ahead -- even after an ethics package with teeth passes, we'll need meaningful campaign finance reform to truly and irrevocably change the culture in Albany.

Here's Kelly's opening statement (PDF):
Kelly Williams Statement for May 4, 2011 Forum on Ethics Legislation

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