Sunday, March 30, 2014

State Budget Deal Reached

With the broad components of his ethics package in the 2014-15 state budget, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a conference call on Saturday he would end the Moreland Commission on Public Corruption if the measures are approved.

“If this package is adopted, then I would end the Moreland Commission,” Cuomo said.
The $137.9 billion budget would create new penalties for bribery and defrauding the government, as well as the office of an independent enforcement counsel within the state Board of Elections.
Cuomo created the commission last July after he and lawmakers failed to reach any agreement on ethics legislation following a spate of unrelated corruption scandals that saw three state lawmakers arrested.

The commission had subpoenaed lawmakers and their outside business interests for more information on their activities.

The Legislature responded by challenging the commission’s authority to do so in state court, noting that such a move violated the separation of powers.

The legal arguments surrounding the Moreland Commission, however, would be rendered moot should the ethics agreement pass.

The commission in December issued a preliminary report recommending a host of ethics reforms, with several members dissenting on whether the public financing of political campaigns should be included.

Sen. Jeff Klein, meanwhile, says he will continue to push for a broader public financing than a pilot program for the state comptroller’s race.

“More needs to be done. We still need to get real campaign finance reform,” Klein said in an interview. “I think we’re working on a system. I’m very optimistic we can come to an agreement.”
Asked about Klein’s position on the public financing component, Cuomo indicated the pilot program was the best outcome, considering Republican opposition.

“The political sentiment in the Senate does not support a more robust public finance system,” he said.

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