State Sen. Diane Savino says governor should rethink threat to veto ethics bill

Diane J. Savino

January 22, 2010

By Judy L. Randall
January 22, 2010, 7:41AM

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- State Sen. Diane Savino said yesterday the governor should "think twice" before he makes a "tremendous mistake" by vetoing the ethics reform bill that Albany lawmakers of both houses passed handily earlier this week.

"He can threaten, but it passed with overwhelming support," said Ms. Savino (D-North Shore/Brooklyn) of the veto-proof bill. "Instead of setting up another showdown with the Legislature, he should be working with us."

The bill, which passed 59-1 in the Senate and 137-2 in the Assembly, requires that lawmakers disclose more information about their outside income, puts greater strictures on lobbyists who seek to do business with them and enhances current campaign finance laws. Advance file photoState Sen. Diane Savino is cautioning Gov. Paterson against vetoing the Legislature's ethics bill.

The job of a state lawmaker is part-time. They earn a base salary of $79,500 and a per diem when they are in Albany.

For one thing, Gov. David Paterson said the bill "does not go far enough" in compelling lawmakers who are attorneys to make their client list public -- something aimed squarely at Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader John Sampson.

But Ms. Savino said attorney-client privilege should apply to lawmakers, too, and that their clients deserve privacy.

State Sen. Andrew Lanza, who is a practicing attorney, said none of his clients are lobbyists and none have business with the state.

"I wouldn't take any," said Lanza (R-Staten Island).

When asked what's behind Paterson's threatened veto, Ms. Savino replied, "I think he thinks it works well for him" in bolstering his image with the electorate.

"Either he believes it or it is working politically for him," added Lanza.

The borough's Democratic Assembly members have hailed the bill, which re-establishes a separate lobbying oversight commission.

"Transparency, oversight and tough enforcement measures ... are vital to open, responsible government," said Assemblyman Matthew Titone (D-North Shore). Titone, an attorney, is of-counsel to a law firm but said he has no business with the state or lobbyists.

"The status quo is not acceptable," said Assemblyman Michael Cusick (D-Mid-Island). "These reforms provide the tools our state government needs to fix a broken ethics system."

"By shining a light on special interests and cracking down on abuses of power, the public can have greater confidence that their representatives are doing the job they were elected to do," said Assemblywoman Janele Hyer-Spencer (D-Mid-Island/Brooklyn). She, too, is an attorney, but handles only pro bono cases.

© 2010 All rights reserved.