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Assemblyman Gabryszak: Assembly and Senate Pass Comprehensive Ethics Reform | Politics

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Assemblyman Gabryszak: Assembly and Senate Pass Comprehensive Ethics Reform
Politics
Assemblyman Gabryszak: Assembly and Senate Pass Comprehensive Ethics Reform

Sweeping ethics reform will make NY government more transparent, accountable

For years, the Assembly has pushed for strong ethics reform measures to shape up Albany and restore New Yorkers’ faith and trust in government. The recently passed Public Integrity Reform Act of 2011 is the culmination of those efforts, and it promises to be transformative (A.8301). The measure will take a hard line with unethical public officials, usher in greater disclosure and empower a newly created watchdog commission to crack down on corruption.

The people of New York have asked for greater transparency and accountability, and this sweeping legislation delivers. The bill provides for the creation of an independent Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) with broad powers to investigate wrongdoing in the legislative and executive branches; ensure compliance with financial disclosure requirements; and oversee lobbyists while holding them to higher disclosure standards. JCOPE will report any violations in the Legislature to the Legislative Ethics Commission (LEC), which will enforce harsh penalties for infractions.

Further increasing transparency are the measure’s new disclosure requirements requiring public officials to disclose any sources of outside income to JCOPE. And because the public has a right to know how their representatives are making their money, the information will be made available to all on JCOPE’s website. In addition, with an eye to flushing out conflicts of interest, lobbyists will be required to disclose the names and compensation of any public officials they deal with.

But transparency and oversight are ineffective without the appropriate consequences in place, which is why the bill includes strict penalties for state and local government officials who engage in unethical behavior. Specifically, this legislation will empower courts to strip or reduce pension benefits from public officials who are convicted of job-related felonies – an action I’ve long advocated. For too long, public officials have been allowed to abuse taxpayer dollars with relative impunity. With this bill, those days are over.

Albany won’t recapture the public’s trust overnight, but after years of hard work, we have a bill that’ll set us on the right path.

 

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