NYS Legislative Agenda: Bring Meaningful and Comprehensive Ethics and Rules Reform to Albany

Bring Meaningful and Comprehensive Ethics and Rules Reform to Albany

Ethics Reform. New York must implement tougher ethics reforms aimed not only at investigating and prosecuting ethics violations, but also at preventing them. To that end, we support:

  • New York State Government Integrity Commission. The City Bar has spent considerable time studying the efficacy of the current ethics enforcement structure which consists of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) and the Legislative Ethics Commission (LEC) and has urged structural reform as well as a strenuous effort by JCOPE and the LEC to rise above the structural deficiencies. While JCOPE has been reasonably effective in the role of regulating lobbyists, subsequent experience has continued to show the necessity for structural reform in the area of ethics enforcement to allow the public a reasonable measure of confidence that ethics enforcement is taken seriously in Albany. The proposed Government Integrity Commission would combine the enforcement powers of JCOPE and the LEC into a single commission that would function much like the Commission on Judicial Conduct and have jurisdiction over misconduct and campaign finance laws for the legislative and executive branches of government. The Constitution must be amended so that the creation of a single entity with jurisdiction over the legislative and executive branches is beyond constitutional question.
  • Limit Legislators’ Outside Employment. The City Bar recommends a cap on income earned by legislators from outside employment, accompanied by a significant salary increase. Additional limits should be placed on the personal use of campaign funds, including a prohibition on the use of campaign funds to pay attorneys’ fees and costs associated with defending against investigations or prosecutions alleging violations of law that are not related to the candidate’s campaign, and a prohibition on the use of campaign funds for household expenditures (such as clothing).

Rules Reform. We encourage both houses of the Legislature to hold public discussions of their operating rules and ways they can be improved. We urge the adoption of new rules that will: (1) limit legislators to serving on a maximum of three committees in any given time period; (2) require committee members to be physically present to have their votes counted; (3) require that all bills must be accompanied with the appropriate fiscal and issue analysis before receiving a vote and that all bills voted out of committee be accompanied by committee reports showing the work of the committee on the bill; (4) mandate a ‘mark-up’ process for all bills before they are voted out of committee; (5) explicitly provide each committee with control over its own budget; and (6) institutionalize conference committees, so that when bills addressing the same subject have been passed by both chambers, a conference committee will be convened at the request of the prime sponsor from each chamber or the Speaker and Majority Leader.