Feature article found in The Lo-Down
Jurors in Albany are beginning a third day of deliberations in the federal corruption trial of former Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno. As The Daily News pointed out the other day, the case has "sparked a new round of talks on ethics reform." Our own state senator, Daniel Squadron, is at the center of the fight for more transparency in New York's ethics law.
A bill he's co-sponsoring would create three panels - one each to oversee lobbyists, the executive branch and the State Legislature. Any recommendations from those commissions would be made public. Lawmakers would be required to report their outside income. Those who have outside consulting businesses (like Bruno) would have to disclose details about their clients. However, legislators who are lawyers (like Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver) would not be compelled to disclose their clients.
Squadron spoke about the bill's prospects at last week's Community Board 3 meeting. He said it's not enough just to be seen as trying to pass a stronger ethics law - it actually has to happen. Right now, everyone in Albany is engrossed in budget negotiations, making it difficult for anyone to deal with other issues. Speaker Silver's spokesman says negotiations between the Senate and the Assembly on the ethics bills are continuing. Last month, Squadron told me, in spite of the obstacles, he's optimistic ethics reform can be dealt with this session.
Squadron updated the community board on several other matters. He says the repeal of vacancy decontrol is still a big priority for him. Squadron said he and a large coalition fighting to restore public housing funding are still trying to get a meeting with governor. Responding to a question about Governor Paterson's suggestion that he might act on his own if lawmakers can't agree on substantial budget cuts, Squadron quipped, "I do not believe in doing away with the Legislature. I believe in representative democracy. We have a deficit that we have to cut... the State Senate has to step up." He added that, while deep cuts will likely be necessary next year, there's no need to slash school spending (as Paterson is proposing) this year.