In a special session Thursday, Democrats who control the chamber with a narrow 32-30 majority plan to take up legislation that would establish a statewide commission to investigate lobbying ethics compliance, with a new office to examine complaints against lawmakers themselves.
While the Assembly has passed that bill 140-0, Democratic Senate leader Sen. John Sampson of Brooklyn plans to offer amendments to broaden the definition of lobbying and expand disclosures, requiring legislators and other public officers to report business dealings with lobbyists.
"If enacted, it will lead to the most sweeping ethics changes in 20 years," said Blair Horner, legislative director of the New York Public Interest Research Group. "It will have created a structure that is the most independent ethics oversight the state has ever had."
Austin Shafran, spokesman for the Senate Democratic Conference, said Democrats believe they have the support to pass ethics reform and the two dozen other items on the agenda issued Friday.
Melissa Mansfield, spokeswoman for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, said the Manhattan Democrat would be pleased if the Senate took up the ethics bill and he would be open to the amendments.
"He'd like to get this done this year," she said.
Other Senate agenda items include confirming transit executive Jay Walder to head the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Also, the Senate is set to vote on Assembly-passed measures to retrofit 1 million homes statewide to cut their energy use and to cut New York's greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050.
Gov. David Paterson set that goal for state agencies by executive order after the Senate failed to vote on it earlier this year. Approval by lawmakers would strengthen it.
"It's kind of stunning," Horner said of the Senate's one-day agenda. "It's a giant step for the house to get out of the hole they dug for themselves this summer."
The Senate's monthlong power struggle led to widespread voter disenchantment, reflected in an August poll by Quinnipiac University where nearly half the respondents said the Senate deserved to be thrown out, including their own lawmaker.