JCOPE didn’t show up.
Neither did anyone from the handful of other oversight agencies in state government, with the exception of the comptroller’s office.
Nevertheless, the New York Senate Standing Committee on Ethics and Internal Governance held a public hearing Thursday to discuss what’s next for the state’s flawed systems of ethics and oversight.
The conversation was as substantive as it should have been, considering the decades of scandal that have rocked Albany, including the most recent abuses of power laid bare by the investigations into the administration of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Though the oversight boards were absent (some sent written testimony), this hearing may have been one of the most important in years considering its timing: There is less than a month to go until the start of the new legislative session, and for the first time in 11 years, there will be a new governor.
A few thoughts from some of the good government advocates who testified:
Rachael Fauss, Reinvent Albany:
- Establish databases that track the flow of money in state government.
Blair Horner, NYPIRG:
- Change how the Inspector General is selected because there’s an inherent conflict of interest if the Governor chooses the IG.
Ben Weinberg, Citizens Union:
- The attorney general should be empowered to investigate corruption without a referral from the governor’s office
Senate Ethics Committee Chair Alessandra Biaggi told Capital Tonight that she feels, for the first time, that there is a lot of possibility ahead as it pertains to ethics reform.
“This was the first time I felt a hearing that we did was not about hostility or contention, but actually was full of information that was collaborative, so that’s a very new frontier for myself and I think for many people interacting with our government,” Biaggi said.
Other issues that were discussed during the hearing included the governance of the SUNY Research Foundation, JCOPE’s flawed structure, establishing a code of conduct for elected officials and restoring the comptroller’s authority to review contracts.
State Sen. Liz Krueger also asked advocates for their thoughts about a bill that she carries that would prevent lobbyists from being allowed to serve on state government boards such as the MTA.
“I call it the Larry Schwartz bill,” the senator said in reference to the long time Cuomo ally who served on the board of the MTA.