State Senator Shirley L. Huntley (D-Queens) today applauded an agreement on a series of reforms that will strengthen ethics laws and practices in Albany.
"For years, Senate Democrats have been at the forefront of efforts to change the way we do business in Albany. Now we have a partner in Governor Spitzer who will use his tremendous mandate to reform State Government," Senator Huntley said.
The proposals, many of which have been introduced in the past by Senate Democrats, will help close numerous loopholes, reduce the influence lobbyists have on what takes place in Albany and enhance the public's trust in State Government.
Significant parts of the agreement include:
• Banning gifts of more than a nominal value from registered lobbyists to public officials;
and from lobbyists who appear before boards that include board members to unpaid
• Prohibiting former Legislative employees from lobbying the Legislature for two years;
• Limiting lobbyists from paying or reimbursing travel expenses of a public official;
• Prohibiting public officials from being paid for speeches, and from appearing in
taxpayer-financed advertisements; and
• Creating a permanent Commission on Public Integrity, by merging the Temporary
Commission on Lobbying and the State Ethics Commission, which will make its
information and work available to the public online.
Senator Huntley noted the penalties for violating the lobbying law and public officer law have increased. Lobbyists face a civil penalty of $25,000 or three times the amount the lobbyist failed to report or illegally gave or received. A second offense would mean a $50,000 civil penalty or five times the amount falsely reported, and if committed within five years of the first violation, a possible one-year disbarment.
The maximum fine for violations by public officials would increase from $10,000 to $40,000, and there would be a maximum fine of $10,000 for certain codes of ethics violations. If a violator were found to have intentionally broke the law, the money gained would have to be paid back.
"While I am happy with the initial progress, we need to take more steps to bring accountability and transparency to State Government," Senator Huntley concluded.