Cuomo Signs Ethics Reform Legislation

On Monday, Governor Andrew Cuomo fulfilled one of his main campaign pledges to New Yorkers by signing a comprehensive ethics reform bill.

While Cuomo was campaigning for the job, he said one of his main goals was to clean up Albany and bring greater transparency to the public. The Public Integrity Reform Act of 2011 adds new provisions to the state’s ethics requirements that Cuomo said should help restore public trust in government.

“Today’s signing is a major step forward in restoring the people’s trust in government and changing the way Albany does business,” Cuomo said. “This new ethics reform law brings an aggressive new approach to returning integrity to the halls of our Capitol. It provides for much-needed disclosure of outside income by lawmakers, creates an independent monitor to investigate corruption and issues strong new rules for lobbyists.”

The new bill creates the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, which will monitor the state government. It requires stricter financial disclosure for politicians and more transparency about who lawmakers do business with to prevent potential conflicts of interest.

The bill also includes a provision where public officials convicted of a felony related to their position must forfeit their pensions. This was a major issue for many residents, who saw lawmakers like former state Assemblyman Anthony Seminerio of Richmond Hill and former state Comptroller Alan Hevesi of Forest Hills sent to prison yet continue to receive thousands of dollars in state pensions. However, the provision only applies to new convictions.

Assemblyman Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven) applauded the bill and said he is “all for expanding and improving” the state’s ethics. “It’s a good bill. Any bill that would bring transparency to the government is a good start.”

State Senator Joe Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) agreed, but argued more should be done.

“While the new ethics reform law will address the need for greater financial disclosure, more information on lobbyists and penalties for certain criminal activity by elected officials, I believe more needs to be done to give people a more transparent and accountable state government,” Addabbo said.

Campaign finance is still a big source of potential corruption, and Addabbo said that should be the next step to reform Albany.

“I intend to continue my efforts to promote the need for campaign finance reform to ensure that future state elections are free from big-donor influences. Large corporate contributions should be limited. Candidates should spend less time fund raising and more campaign time talking to the people about the issues that truly affect them,” he said.

by Eric Yun


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