New York Daily News: Kill the moonlight, state Sen. Brad Hoylman says of pols working on the side
December 30, 2013 : By Kenneth Lovett
ALBANY — A state senator wants to end moonlighting by legislators, making the Legislature a full-time job.
Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan) has introduced a bill barring lawmakers from having outside employment, saying the idea would cut down on corruption by eliminating potential conflicts of interest. Though the job of state legislator carries an annual base salary of $79,500 — highest in the country after California — it is considered part-time.
Some lawmakers have outside employment that pays them far more than that, particularly the leaders. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver reported making up to $450,000 at his law firm, while Senate GOP leader Dean Skelos makes up to $250,000 from his.
Gov. Cuomo’s anti-corruption commission has sent out a slew of subpoenas aimed at finding out what, if anything, the lawmakers are doing for their outside pay.
In a recent report, the commission found that 89 of the 174 legislators who served in 2012 and returned in 2013 reported at least one source of outside income, with 73% earning at least $20,000.
The panel claimed having second jobs “is not inherently wrong” but can lead to conflicts of interest or the appearance of corruption. Several lawmakers in recent years were charged or went to prison for improperly mixing state and private business.
Hoylman said his bill would make the question moot by placing the same moonlighting ban on lawmakers as imposed on the governor, controller and attorney general.
“It would make New York a model for the rest of the country by taking us from being the poster child of bad behavior to being a model for ethical performance,” he said.
One argument against a full-time Legislature is the cost. Some say it would require hiking the base salaries of lawmakers who haven’t had a raise since 1999.
But Hoylman said lawmakers, particularly outside New York, already earn more than many of their constituents. Rather than mandate a higher salary, his bill would create a nine-member commission that would meet every four years to consider potential salary hikes.
The governor would appoint three members, the controller two, and the majority and minority leaders in each house one each.
“This is not about legislative pay, this is about legislative performance,” Hoylman countered. “I think the issue is making certain that legislators don’t have jobs on the side that run counter to their responsibilities to the public.”