Republicans in the state Legislature are challenging a pending limit on the amount of money New York lawmakers can earn outside of their jobs as elected officials.
The lawsuit, filed this week in the federal court's Northern District, seeks to strike down the $35,000 limit, set to take effect in early 2025.
Republicans in the suit argue the income cap "unconstitutionally deprives members of the Legislature who do not comply with the limit on outside income of their salaries" and also "deprives Plaintiffs of their property interests, namely their legislative salaries and outside income, by imposing restrictions on their businesses and outside income."
Mike Murphy, a spokesman for the state Senate Democrats, blasted the legal challenge, pointing to the Republican former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, who was imprisoned following a corruption conviction.
"It is disturbing that Republicans want to return to the old Albany ways of their corrupt leader Dean Skelos," Murphy said. "These reforms helped clean up Albany."
A spokesman for the Assembly Democratic conference declined to comment, citing a policy of not commenting on pending litigation.
New York lawmakers and Gov. Kathy Hochul approved a legislative pay raise from $110,000 to $142,000 last year. Coupled with the salary hike was a limit on outside income, long a source of consternation for good-government advocates and newspaper editorial writers.
The state Legislature has been considered a technically part-time post; lawmakers over the years have been farmers, dentists, funeral parlor owners and saloonkeepers, drawing income from those jobs in the private sector.
But government watchdogs have pointed to the kind of outside pay they worry has fallen short of being an ideal citizens-legislator: Lawmakers have been employed at politically-connected law firms that have business before the Legislature.
There have also been calls to limit the outside income of New York's chief executive after former Gov. Andrew Cuomo received lucrative book contracts while in office, the last of which is now the source of a lawsuit against the state's ethics commission.
Good-government advocates last year complained the outside income cap does not go far enough.
"Unfortunately, the bill does not prohibit outside income from entities where the legislator would have a fiduciary responsibility to a client," a coalition of groups including Reinvent Albany, the New York Public Interest Research Group, Citizens Union, Common Cause and the League of Women Voters, said last year.
Still, Republicans argue in the lawsuit faces constitutional questions, pointing to a provision that prevents lawmakers from voting on legislative business if they do not comply with the outside income cap.
"Therefore, if Plaintiffs are prohibited from voting because of their outside income, their constituents are effectively disenfranchised and rendered voiceless," the lawsuit stated.