State Legislature is serious about stricter ethics laws

“Make no mistake, this house is serious about ethics reform and we know that words are not enough," said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx).Mike Groll/AP

“Make no mistake, this house is serious about ethics reform and we know that words are not enough,” said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx).

ALBANY — The scandal-scarred state Legislature got back to work Wednesday amid rampant calls for stricter ethics laws.

Convening barely a month after the convictions of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos on corruption charges, the Legislature’s new leaders vowed to move beyond the turmoil of the past year but already appeared at odds over what steps, if any, to take.

“Make no mistake, this house is serious about ethics reform and we know that words are not enough,” said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx).

SHELDON SILVER’S GUILTY VERDICT PUTS PRESSURE ON ANDREW CUOMO TO TOUGHEN ETHICS LAWS

Heastie said Assembly Democrats will push for initiatives already rejected by the state Senate Republicans, including closure of campaign finance loophole that allows almost unlimited donations from limited liability corporations.

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-Suffolk) promised to “engage in whatever discussions are necessary” on ethics but opposed two key measures favored by Democrats and good government groups — public financing of election campaigns and bans on lawmakers’ outside income.

“I think it's useful for people to have the opportunity to actually make a living outside the Legislature,” Flanagan said.Mike Groll/AP

“I think it’s useful for people to have the opportunity to actually make a living outside the Legislature,” Flanagan said.

“I think it’s useful for people to have the opportunity to actually make a living outside the Legislature,” Flanagan said.

Flanagan also argued that the Legislature, in recent years, had already made “major, sweeping” changes in ethics laws, requiring lawmakers to disclose more information about their outside income.

“We’ve enacted very stringent laws already and I think that often gets overlooked,” Flanagan told reporters after the Senate adjourned for the day.

Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group said it will be up to Gov. Cuomo to push tougher ethics measures through the Legislature this year. Cuomo has vowed to introduce new ethics measures in his State of the Address next week.

“Albany’s muscle memory is for each house to pass bills the other house won’t do,” Horner said. “That should not be good enough. Unprecedented scandal should lead to unprecedented reform, not partisan posturing.”

Dean Skelos and his son Adam were found guilty on all charges in their corruption case.Alec Tabak/for New York Daily News

Dean Skelos and his son Adam were found guilty on all charges in their corruption case.

In a press conference before the start of the session, Horner and leaders from Common Cause and Citizens Union called on lawmakers to sign a “Clean Conscience Pledge” in support of a set of reforms, including a ban on outside income, greater transparency in the allocation of discretionary funds and closure of the LLC loophole.

Flanagan, who became the Senate leader following Skelos’ May arrest, said the Senate’s top priority was spurring job creation and economic development. He was also non-committal about another of Cuomo’s key initiatives — raising New York’s minimum wage to $ 15-an-hour.

“We have to have a complete discussion,” Flanagan said, arguing that talks on the minimum wage had to also include initiatives to spur job growth and reduce the tax burden.

Meanwhile, Mayor de Blasio said Wednesday that he’s planning to attend Cuomo’s presentation next week but has not been briefed on the plan the governor intends to unveil to combat homelessness.

When asked if he will be briefed on it, de Blasio said “you’ll have to ask them.”

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Tags:
new york corruption ,
new york state legislature ,
sheldon silver ,
dean skelos ,
carl heastie ,
john flanagan ,
andrew cuomo

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