Friday, May 12, 2017

Push for Procurement Reforms

This week the League, ReInvent Albany, NYPIRG, Citizens Union, Fiscal Policy Institute, and the Citizens Budget Commission held a press conference in Albany pushing for reforms to our state contracting system. Last year there were several state and federal indictments related to a major state contract bid rigging scandal that cost tax payers an estimates $800 million. This scandal arose after oversight authority of state contracts was taken from the State Comptroller. Our organizations are supporting legislation that will increase transparency and government accountability when contracts are awarded. We are supporting the following 5 reforms:

  1. Require competitive and transparent contracting for the award of state funds by all state agencies, authorities, and affiliates. Use existing agency procurement guidelines as a uniform minimum standard.
  2. Transfer responsibility for awarding all economic development awards to Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and end awards by state non-profits and SUNY.
  3. Empower the Comptroller to review and approve all state contracts over $250k.
  4. Prohibit state authorities, state corporations, and state non-profits from doing business with their board members.

  1. Create a ‘Database of Deals’ that allows the public to see the total value of all forms of subsidies awarded to a business – as six states have done.

The Senate has already passed legislation enacting these reforms. The League and our good government partners will be lobbying this legislation in the Assembly over the coming weeks. We hope to see this bill passed in the Assembly and signed into law before session ends.

Friday, May 5, 2017

New York Wants Early Voting NOW!

This week we made a big push to get early voting moved in the Senate. We gathered together nearly 20 of our members to attend the Senate Elections Committee meeting to let the Senate know we mean business! Several bills were killed during this committee meeting including the Voter Empowerment Act and a bill to force all Presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns. All three of these bills were petitioned by their sponsors to be heard by the committee. Lucky for us, the early voting bill survived and was moved to the Local Government Committee.

The Senate Republican committee members voted "without recommendation" meaning they would allow the bill to pass but if it came to the floor for a vote they may vote against it. Only Senator Marchione was a solid "no" vote. Unfortunately for us, she is also the chair of the Local Government Committee. Our members worked quickly to put in calls to her office asking her to put the bill on the agenda.

We were so pleased on Friday when we saw that she had moved the bill to Senate Rules. Although we would have preferred the bill to move to the floor we were happy that they bill wasn't killed in committee. We are now focusing our attentions on getting this bill taken up in Rules. The bill's sponsor, Andrea Stewart-Cousin, is also the ranking member on Rules. Our hope is that she will use her power and influence to get a vote on this bill!

On Tuesday we kept the momentum going and worked with the NYC Campaign Finance Board on their call to remove barriers to elections. We joined them for a morning rally that was packed with high school students and our NYC League members. Senators Stewart Cousins and Gianaris also attended as well as Assembly Members Carol and Kavanagh. You can read the release about their VoteBetterNY project here. Many thanks to VoteBetterNY for including us in their event! We really do all need to be working together on these reforms.

On the national level, we are becoming increasingly concerned with what could potentially happen to the health care of millions of Americans. Our National organization released the statement below on the new health care plan.