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

Bring Meaningful and Comprehensive Ethics Reform to Albany

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 we have 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 that the Legislature impose a cap on income earned by legislators from outside employment, which we hope would eventually be 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).