Feb. 17, 2015 By Michael Florio
State Senator Michael Gianaris is part of a movement to clean up Albany.
Gianaris has joined several senate Democratics to introduce a package of legislative reforms.
The legislative reforms would effectively ban outside income for legislators, take away pensions from elected officials convicted of felonies, create a public financing system for elections and strengthen financial disclosure laws.
In addition, Gianaris has introduced two bills that are part of the reform package that would lower contribution limits and prevent the reimbursement of legal fees for officials subject to ethics charges.
“Our state government is in desperate need of real ethics reform,” Gianaris said. “I am proud to author bills that would lower campaign contribution limits as well as prevent public reimbursement of campaign committees for legal defense, and I am proud to support the entire Senate Democratic ethics package.”
Gianaris’ bill aims to reduce individual contribution limits as a means to take big money out of elections.
For state senate races, the contribution limit per donor would be lowered from $6,500 to $4,000 for the primary races and from $10,300 to $4,000 for general elections.
Meanwhile, for assembly races the contribution limit would be lowered from $4,100 to $2,000 for primaries and from $4,100 to $2,000 for general elections.
The bill would also lower the contribution limits for candidates running for statewide offices—whether it be in primaries or general elections.
“These [current] high limits threaten the integrity of elections in New York State by allowing small numbers of wealthy contributors to disproportionately affect their outcomes,” the ethics package reads.
The second bill that Gianaris has introduced prohibits elected officials from being reimbursed for their defense costs.
The money used to reimburse the elected officials comes from state taxpayer money. The bill states that in the past, millions of dollars have gone for reimbursement of just a single case.
The package, which Gianaris sponsors, would also remove the public pension of state and local officials should they abuse their power in office and are convicted of a felony.
Currently, there is no policy forcing elected officials to give up their pension.
“Any state officer or local officer convicted of a felony involving breach of public trust will be subject to forfeiture of pension benefits,” the bill reads.
Gianaris states that the Senate Republicans must get on board if the ethics package is to passed in the senate.
“I hope Senate Republicans realize the urgency of this issue and work with us to immediately pass these common sense reforms so that the people’s faith in their government can be restored,” he said.