Citizens Union

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New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said he has made a decision to stay out of politics for now, due to a climate of corruption and ongoing investigations by his office.

Schneiderman said he will not be endorsing or appearing with any candidates any more, as statewide office holders sometimes do. Both former leaders of the legislature face federal corruption trials next month and the attorney general’s office has, along with the state comptroller, probed the actions of dozens of elected officials, some resulting in charges and convictions.

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Fixing the state’s troubled ethics commission will be the subject of hearings in Albany on October 7 and in New York City October 17. Reform groups say they are ready with suggestions.

The panel, created by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in May, is tasked with looking at ways to improve the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, or JCOPE, which has been widely criticized as secretive and ineffective. JCOPE was launched by Cuomo and the state legislature during the governor’s first months in office back in 2011.

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The New York legislature completed an almost on time budget, around 3 a.m. on the first day of the state’s fiscal year.

One of the final pieces to come together was an ethics reform package, which will provide greater disclosure of lawmaker’s outside income.

But critics say it does not go far enough.

The ethics changes would deny pensions for lawmakers convicted of serious crimes. The provision requires a constitutional amendment. 

Office of Eric Schneiderman / Flickr

There’s still no final three way deal on an ethics reform proposal at the state Capitol.  And reform groups say a proposal offered by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state Assembly does not go far enough.

The plan by Cuomo and Assembly Democrats requires that lawmakers disclose the source of all outside income they receive above $1,000. Lawyers must reveal the names of their clients if they earn more than $5,000. They would also have to prove they are actually in Albany, through an electronic monitoring system, before receiving their expense payments.

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  Gov. Andrew  says he wants ethics reform as part of the budget or he will hold up the state’s spending plan, while legislators say they want to negotiate the issue separately. Government reform groups say the key issue is that the reforms be real.   

Cuomo is threatening to make the budget late over an ethics reform package that the governor is seeking.  He repeated his demand this week at a business lunch in Rochester.

“This year a top priority is having ethics reform done in Albany,” Cuomo said. “Because at one point, enough is enough.”

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All three propositions on the New York state ballot passed Tuesday. Supporters of the measure to change the redistricting process say the vote shows New Yorkers are hungry for reform.

Voters approved a change in the state’s constitution that will require the legislature to appoint a commission to redraw state Senate, Assembly and congressional district lines after the 2020 census.

Dick Dadey, with Citizens Union, a group that supported the amendment, says the 57 percent of voters who said yes shows that the public craves reform of the present system.

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Supporters of a November ballot amendment on redistricting say it will help prevent rampant partisan Gerrymandering when the next district lines are drawn in the Senate and the Assembly. The groups Citizens Union and League of Women Voters are making voters aware of the amendment and giving them reasons why voters should approve the measure.

-JvL- / Flickr

Government reform activists took their smartphones into Assembly Committee meetings to live stream meetings that so far have not been available online to the public.

To mark what’s known as Sunshine Week, to promote a more open government, the activists took their smartphones into several Assembly Committee meetings. Using simple software, they pressed record and streamed the proceedings live on the Internet.

A proposal on the November ballot to allow some state judges to serve until they are 80 years old is not drawing a lot of support, and one court expert says that’s a shame.

The second public hearing held by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s commission to probe public corruption featured testimony from long time government reform groups. Many brought more evidence that they say shows potential corruption involving money and politics.

Protesters outside the hearing were advocating for public campaign finance reform, chanting “money out, voters in,” and displaying a wall of shame, featuring pictures and likenesses of dozens of politicians who’ve been indicted, arrested, convicted or jailed in recent years.