March 15, 2016

Speaker Heastie Statement
on Passage of Ethics Reform Legislation

Today's passage of new ethics legislation reflects the Assembly Majority's continued commitment to renewing the public's trust in our government. The vast majority of people who come to Albany do so for the right reasons. However, we cannot ignore the fact that there have been ethical issues that have cast a pall over our state government. These issues diminish us all, and as a Legislature, we have a responsibility to address this head on and give the people of this state confidence that we have the highest ethical standards.

Today, we passed a measure to limit outside income and prohibit a legislator from leveraging his or her public office for financial gain. Under the proposal, a legislator's outside income may not exceed 40 percent of the annual salary of New York State Supreme Court Justices. Therefore, no sitting legislator would earn more in outside income than their base salary. Additionally, the bill would prohibit a legislator from receiving any payment for the use of his or her name in promotional materials, such as letterhead or websites, unless the legislator performs work for the firm.

The legislation also closes the limited liability companies (LLC) loophole, provides greater transparency regarding the source of lobbying funds, and enacts stricter regulations with the handling of "housekeeping money" by political party committees.

The bill drastically lowers the contribution limits for LLCs to the same $5,000 limit applied to corporations. The bill would also require full disclosure of the true owners behind a LLC that makes political contributions. To ensure that "hard money" and "housekeeping money" do not comingle, separate accounts would be required for each.

Our proposal also takes steps to limit the ability of special interests to influence government without disclosing the sources of their funding, often referred to as "dark money." Currently, entities that lobby for themselves or hire a lobbyist are required to report the funding source of any amount over $5,000 if they have spent more than $50,000 on lobbying in a year. Under the proposal, the thresholds would be lowered to $1,000 and $5,000 respectively.

During the 2015 legislative session we created the Office of Ethics and Compliance and enhanced the oversight of our per diem reimbursements. We also increased disclosure requirements and set new limitations on the use of campaign funds for personal use. Today's legislation builds on the progress we made last year and I am committed to restoring the public's trust in our government and I look forward to working with our colleagues in government to ensure this becomes law.