Reforms require approval from the Republican-controlled state Senate, which is unlikely to comply
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie last week unveiled an array of ethics reforms intended to help clean up Albany—or at least give the impression of leading a virtuous effort.
Heastie proposed fixes that had government watchdog groups howling with approval, including limits to legislators’ outside income and fundraising. He would close one loophole that allows real estate interests to donate outsize sums through opaquely named limited-liability companies, and another that lets donors lavish unlimited amounts of cash on political parties’ so-called housekeeping accounts, through which it is then doled out to candidates.
Lawmakers would also be required to work for whatever they earn, rather than take a post at a law firm and collect referral fees.
The proposals, which would limit outside earnings to $77,000, aim to screen out much of the behavior that led to the felony conviction last year of Heastie’s predecessor, Sheldon Silver.
But the reforms require approval from the Republican-controlled state Senate, which has resisted them in the past. That could allow Assembly Democrats to vote for the measures without fear that they would become law. Small loopholes could also undermine the effort, said Dick Dadey, executive director of good-government group Citizens Union.
Speaking at a Crain’s breakfast forum, Heastie denied that corruption in Albany is widespread, instead blaming scandals on “bad apples.” Whether his ethics plan will shake the tree remains to be seen.