Earlier this month, Gov. Kathy Hochul vetoed a bill requiring the disclosure of information relating to lobbying for the nomination or confirmation of individuals to state office positions.

The bill came to light after Hochul nominated Hector LaSalle for chief judge of the Court of Appeals last winter. Outside groups poured money into what is typically a routine confirmation, turning the process into a political slugfest. Sponsors of the bill and good-government groups say it exposed a loophole: There are disclosure rules around lobbying for policy that don't apply to lobbying for nominations and conformations. The governor implied in her veto that their efforts to close it went too far.

Blair Horner, executive director of NYPIRG, said there is a clear loophole in New York’s lobbying law, and it needs to be closed.

“If you lobby to influence the utility rates, it’s lobbying,” he said. “If you seek to influence who makes the decision of what those rates are, that’s not considered lobbying.”

The bill would have closed the loophole by requiring people and organizations employed or designated to influence the nomination or confirmation process of a person to state office be publicly and regularly disclosed.

The governor vetoed the bill on the grounds that it would be costly, as well as the fact that it would require disclosure going back to Jan. 1 of this year, including the LaSalle confirmation.

“This bill would impose significant new reporting requirements on people who might not already be reporters, retroactive to January 1, 2023,” she wrote. “Additionally, this would impose implementation costs not already accounted for in the State financial plan.”

Horner questioned the governor’s reasoning.

“This would have been a retroactive way of disclosing lobbying that occurred during that period, and she’s right. But we feel the public has a right to know that information,” he said.

Assemblyman John McDonald, who cosponsored the bill with Senator Mike Gianaris, says he doesn’t feel the cost of the bill would’ve been significant, and says despite the veto, there is still need and an avenue for action.

“Individuals who are considered by the Senate for confirmation, whether it be agency heads or for positions such as the Court of Appeals or other appointments, if there is hired advocacy going on, there should be disclosure if it meets the threshold,” he said. “I have every intention of reintroducing the bill. I will speak with Senator Gianaris and see if he has any concerns. I will speak again with executive counsel.”

Horner said he is hopeful that similar legislation can make headway in the future with a minor adjustment.

“I would think that the effective date issue seems to be the big one,” he said. “The state ethics agency, the Commission on Ethics and Lobbying in Government, has introduced its own relatively minor package of changes it would like to see in the law.”

McDonald added he is hopeful the governor will take up the bill and introduce it as part of her executive budget next month.

Spectrum News 1 reached out to Hochul’s office to learn more about her plans for the upcoming session as it relates to lobbying reform, but did not receive a response. In her veto note, she expressed support for continuing efforts to expand transparency.

“I remain committed to working to restore trust in government and I support strengthening transparency in government operations,” she wrote. “This administration has already taken meaningful steps towards that goal, including requiring State agencies to create public transparency plans, improving the FOIL process, and strengthening ethics training requirements for State employees.”