Albany Adopts Ethics Reforms, Gov Plans Veto

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    Is it any wonder that 58% of New Yorkers believe that they have one of the worst stae goverments in the nation?

    New York's Legislature adopted its latest ethics reforms Wednesday, but Gov. David Paterson said he will veto the package because he wants a tougher measure.

    "While there are some good aspects of the ethics bill passed today by the legislature, it does not go far enough to address the underlying issues that have caused the people of New York to lose faith and trust in their government,'' Paterson said in a statement less than an hour after the Senate voted. ``It is for this reason that I will veto this bill."

    Senate Democrats said they expected to be able to override the veto, which requires a two-thirds majority in both state chambers.
     
    The bill easily passed 59-1 in the Senate and 137-2 in the Assembly.  "A good law is better than a perfect press release," said Sen. Daniel Squadron, a Manhattan Democrat and co-sponsor of the bill.

    "This is the first step in reform, not the last. He would be vetoing the most significant ethics reform in 30 years."

    Paterson said he wants to work with lawmakers for an agreement on a tougher bill. The bill would require lawmakers, part-time workers making a base salary of $79,500, to disclose more of their outside business interests and requires them to check off broad
    categories of amount of outside income.

    It also would force more disclosure by lobbyists, including which lawmakers they are trying to influence, and create an enforcer of campaign finance laws. It wouldn't require lawmakers to identify lobbyists and businesses trying to influence them, but
    requires that disclosure by the lobbyists and business interests.

    The bill, however, doesn't include some of Paterson's provisions, including: term limits, disclosure of law clients by lawmakers who are also practicing attorneys, such as the top two leaders of Senate and Assembly, and a method that avoids direct appointment of members to enforcement boards by the officials the boards would police.

    "We need to restore transparency and accountability to government and assure the public that their elected officials work for them and no one else,'' Paterson said. He refused comment on another part of the package, a bill that would ban public officers
    from using government resources of outside, for-profit business.

    Two good-government groups had called the measure too weak and a political patch this election year when massive repair to Albany's ethics enforcement is needed.

    "It should not be signed into law in its current form," said Susan Lerner of New York Common Cause. ``The governor is correct that the Legislature and the governor should now negotiate a stronger bill which provides for truly independent oversight over the Legislature and full disclosure of all outside income.

    The Brennan Center for Justice had criticized the secretive way the bill was crafted by lawmakers without identifying those who opposed broader reform. Three good-government groups support the measure as an improvement over the status quo.

    "The governor is making a huge mistake," said Blair Horner, legislative director of the New York Public Interest Research Group. "This bill is a substantial improvement over the status quo and essentially the governor is saying 'It's my way or the highway.' It's a stunning decision.''

    The measure comes a month after the former Senate majority leader, a Republican, was convicted in a corruption case, and seven months after a Democratic assemblyman was convicted in a separate corruption case. Last year, former Health Commissioner Antonia Novello, a Republican, was convicted of using state workers to help her shop. In 2007, then-Comptroller Alan Hevesi, a Democrat, resigned after he was convicted of misusing state workers for personal errands. That followed a bribery conspiracy conviction in 2004 against Republican Sen. Guy Velella, and, in 1991, a fraud conviction against former Assembly Speaker Mel Miller, a Democrat.

    The package was the only version legislative leaders allowed to the floor, creating a take-it-or-leave-it situation for lawmakers.
     
    Several Republican amendments were defeated in the Senate.

    Assemblyman David McDonough, a Nassau County Republican, said the bill was ``flawed in many ways.'' Then he added: `I can't imagine what I would be like for a member to have the courage to say `No' ... then be on the campaign and say they voted against an ethics bill ... I will vote for this because I don't want to be damned for saying I voted against ethics."