Monday, March 21, 2016

This week was Sunshine Week and the League spent it telling lawmakers they need to do more on ethics. The week started with the League, NYPIRG, Citizen’s Union, Common Cause, and Reinvent Albany reacting to the inadequate ethics proposal put forward and passed Tuesday by the Assembly. The bill, sponsored by Speaker Heasite, limits outside income, closes the LLC Loophole, requires more disclosure for lobbying groups, and limits expenditures by “housekeeping” committees.  Although we were happy to see the Assembly at least put something forward  on ethics, this proposal is not nearly enough to curb the persistent corruption plaguing our Capital. For more on our press conference click here.

The one-house budgets were released over the weekend giving us limited time to review them before Monday. We were dismayed to see no additional funding for the State Board of Election in the one-house budgets. We were also extremely disappointed that the Senate chose only to put forward reforms on state pensions of convicted felons and term limits for legislative leaders; not nearly as comprehensive a “package” as we had hoped.  We were relieved that the Assembly stayed true to their word and excluded the Education Investment Tax Credit (EITC) in their proposal. The Senate did include it and we expect this issue will arise again in the Assembly Committee on Education at some point this session.

Monday and Tuesday the League met with several members on the EITC and voting reforms. Tuesday evening the Budget Conference Committees were announced and the League made an effort to attend as many as possible.  In total we attended 5 conferences including Local Governments, Public Protection, Workforce, Education, and the initial “Mothership” Conference where the legislative leaders patted themselves on the back for putting forward such progressive reforms. In each of the Joint Conference Committees the members of the Senate and Assembly laid out their goals and highlighted their priorities; unfortunately there was no mention of possible table targets.

We ended our week on a high note with the release of the recommendations set forth by Assembly Workforce Committee on Legislative Process. We were very pleased to see so many common sense reforms for the state legislature. The proposal includes mandatory webcasting of all Assembly Committee meetings, a new online portal for all official documents on legislation, WiFi in all state offices, and moving bill debates to the beginning of the legislative session rather than saving them for the final weeks. For the full list of recommendations and a response from the League check out this article. We are especially excited for the state to FINALLY make LRS accessible to the public. The Legislative Retrieval System (LRS) is an online program which allows fast up-to-date information on bills. Currently the system is only available to legislative staff and those who are willing to pay its hefty fee.

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