Good Government | 2024 NYS Legislative Agenda
Raise and Reset Expectations About State Ethics Enforcement in New York
The creation of the Commission on Ethics and Lobbying in Government (COELIG) as a replacement to the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) provides the opportunity to “reset” public and state officers’ and employees’ expectations about state ethics oversight. We urge the Legislature to continue to look critically at ethics oversight in New York and consider additional reforms as needed to ensure COELIG is operating in a way that is effective, transparent and fulfills its mission. Additional reforms could include prohibiting ex parte communications between Commissioners and the elected officials (or their representatives) who appointed them; requiring additional reporting on the campaign activity of lobbyists; and releasing financial disclosure statements as open data.
Provide Students Essential Education Needed to be Civically Engaged and Productive Individuals in a Complex World
The City Bar applauds the Blue Ribbon Commission on Graduation Measures, established by the Board of Regents, for recognizing the importance of adopting diploma credit requirements in the areas of “civic responsibility (ethics)” and financial literacy education. We agree with the Blue Ribbon Commission in their assessment that these are “meaningful life-ready credential(s)” that provide critical tools to students in order for them to be full participants in our civic society. The Court of Appeals, New York’s highest court, held in 2003 that the state constitution requires New York State to provide all of its students “a meaningful high school education,” one that will prepare them to “function productively as civic participants capable of voting [or] serving on a jury,” and “to obtain ‘competitive employment.'” Yet many New York students are not receiving adequate instruction on civics and financial literacy. The lone civic education requirement in the State is a one semester Participation in Government high school course. New York does not require any separate personal financial literacy course for high school students, but merely suggests possible topics to be integrated as part of a one-half credit requirement (one credit in New York City) that students complete in economics.
Civic education cannot be squeezed into a social studies course only when teachers are able to find extra time (something we all know is in short supply). Nor should it be reduced to classes on ethics, civility, and respectful dialogue. While those are important skills, knowledge of how our government works is a distinct subject area that is more critical than ever in a time when false news is rampant and there are ongoing attacks on the rule of law and our institutions. Likewise, without a required, separate course in personal financial literacy, virtually no high school graduates in New York will know, for example, that a standard auto policy will not cover them if they have an accident while driving for Uber, or how to improve their credit score, or how to prudently borrow for college, or how to economically purchase or lease a car, or how to profitably save for retirement.
We believe that as lawyers we have a responsibility to help promote greater understanding in the younger generation of the panoply of federal and state laws that regulate our democracy and economy. Without that understanding, they cannot be expected to become fully successful participants in these critical systems of our society. We urge the Governor and Legislature to support the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Commission and help ensure that civic education and financial literacy become required courses for high school graduation.
– New for 2024 –
 The Blue Ribbon Commission report has many laudable ideas; our Agenda focuses on those areas of the Report where the City Bar has existing positions. Our members have focused on civic education and financial literacy because, as lawyers, they have seen in their practices the particular impacts when individuals have not had the benefit of this type of education.
 Campaign for Fiscal Equity, Inc. v. State of N.Y., 100 N.Y.2d 893 (2003).