ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - Lawmakers in New York unveiled new measures Tuesday intended to address chronic corruption problems in a state where 30 lawmakers have left office facing criminal or ethical allegations since 2000.
A proposed state constitutional amendment suggested by Sen. Liz Krueger, a Democrat in Manhattan, would create a new independent ethics commission to investigate wrongdoing by public officials. Five of the nine seats on the commission would be appointed by the state’s top judges, with the other four picked by legislative leaders, the governor, comptroller and attorney general.
The new commission would replace two current ethics panels that are effectively controlled by the governor and top lawmakers, giving them the ability to shut down investigations. The new commission would also have greater authority to sanction public employees.
State government’s current approach to corruption isn’t working, Krueger said, but a new independent commission would “not only the independence but the teeth to fix things.”
Being a constitutional amendment, the measure would have to pass the Legislature twice and then go before the voters. The soonest that could happen would be the 2021 election.
Another legislative proposal announced Tuesday would require elected officials to close campaign accounts within two years of a criminal conviction. That proposal, from Sen. Todd Kaminsky of Long Island, is intended to address so-called “zombie” campaign accounts, which disgraced politicians have used to pay their own defense bills.
Both bills have sponsors in the Assembly as well as support from Republicans. They’re likely of several proposals intended to combat corruption that will be introduced this year. Similar bills have been introduced in years past, however, only to be blocked by the Senate or Assembly.
Lawmakers will begin the 2019 session Wednesday in Albany.
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