Session is finally over and although we are excited to switch our focus to developing new educational programs and updating our electronic voter guide for the upcoming primary and general elections (http://www.vote411.org/ we just posted the candidates for the Congressional primary so be sure to check it out!) We are disappointed at the lack of campaign finance and ethics reforms this session; but before we dwell on the negative, let’s take a moment to reflect on the positives. In total the League had quite a few successes this session:
· We once again kept the Education Tax Credit from coming to a vote in the Assembly, an arduous but satisfying fight.
· We saw movement in the Assembly on some of our core voting reforms including early voting, allowing for electronic poll books, an amendment for no-excuse absentee voting, and the Voter Friendly Ballot Act.
· We also helped push the LLC loophole for a vote in the Assembly where it passed easily with support from both democrats and republicans.
· We were also successful in raising public awareness for our core ethics and campaign finance issues. We held many press conferences and issued countless memos and statements pushing to see some form of ethics reforms happen before time ran out.
To see all of the issues we worked on throughout this session visit our website athttp://www.lwvny.org/
Even though we’ve had success moving these issues in the Assembly, we are very disappointed the Senate did not take the opportunity to vote on any of these common sense election law and campaign finance reforms. It is however very satisfying to see these bills at least move in one house, many of these bills have never even been voted out of committee!
Although the legislation we advocated for was not signed into law, the Governor did put forward an ethics packaged aimed primarily at independent expenditures which we have mixed feelings about. On the one hand, the package includes some reforms that we have been fighting for for nearly a decade. Pension forfeiture of elected officials convicted of corruption, the timely closure of political PACs after a candidate passes, and having political consultants register as lobbyists, are all measures the League supports. What we don’t support is how the Governor quickly put together this package, without including laws aimed at bigger issues such as closing the LLC loophole and eliminating pay to play by lowering contribution limits, and then the two houses passed the package in the dead of the night (Senate at 2:00am and Assembly at 5:00 am). For this entire legislative session, the League and its good government partners have held press conferences urging the Governor to pass these reforms and put his focus on money flowing directly to elected officials. Yes we want to take away pensions from corrupt politicians, yes we want better disclosure for lobbyists, yes we want consultants to be on the record as lobbyists, but we also want to see some bigger changes. Changes that would limit and bring transparency to money in politics, changes that would strengthen JCOPE, And changes that would actually address the underlying problems that allow politicians to receive unlimited campaign contributions from undisclosed donors.
Are we happy? No, not really. Are we disappointed? Well, at least we got more done this year than last year. The truth is until we pass strong anti-corruption laws we will continue to see politicians abusing the system for their own self gain. For now we will take advantage of the new “Boozy Brunch” law, have a few Bloody Mary’s, and start to strategize our approach for next session. Have a great summer everyone!