Rule Would Require Lawmakers Seek Advisory Opinion Before Receiving Outside Income
ALBANY, N.Y. -- New York State lawmakers are moving forward with a plan that alters an ethics proposal in Gov. Andrew Cuomo's executive budget. The Assembly and Senate are backing a rule that would require a lawmaker seek an advisory opinion before receiving outside income.
"Members have over the years gotten into difficulty with outside income. That conflicted with public officers law. This will allow them now to have a formal opinion," said Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle, D-Irondequoit.
The rule change is similar to what Cuomo proposed: Lawmakers would have to seek advise from the Legislative Ethics Commission before receiving outside pay. The commission is appointed by lawmakers themselves, so Cuomo's proposal would have added a judge to the approval process. The legislative version doesn't include that oversight.
The move was frowned upon by good-government advocates, like Legislative Director Blair Horner of NYPIRG.
"That is not independent oversight. That is definitely an internal process," Horner said. "They're entitled to their internal processes, but it doesn't deal with the problems and the scandals we've seen around (Sheldon) Silver and (Dean) Skelos – the legislative leaders gaming the system to their outside income benefit.
Ethics watchdogs also contend having oversight set in law, not a legislative rule, is far stronger.
"Clearly having a law is better than a rule because there's a way to enforce it," Horner said.
Lawmakers like Deputy Senate Majority Leader John DeFrancisco disagree, saying disclosure of outside income has never been stronger.
"It's not only this rule, but you have to disclose your income, you have to disclose everything but the blood type of your first born child on the disclosure forms," said DeFrancisco, R-Syracuse.
Cuomo in December tried and failed to include a ban on outside income in a constitutional amendment. The proposal was rejected by the Legislature.