State Senate Does Nothing on Ethics Reform

ALBANY—The State Senate decided, on ethics reform, that no loaf was better than half.

Members of the chamber failed–along party lines, with Republicans voting against–to pass a bill requiring more enforcement by government watchdogs, prompting Democrats to lay aside another bill passed by the Assembly.

On the chamber floor, Republicans attacked a chapter amendment introduced by Senator John Sampson that would have created a compliance-enforcement unit
with the State Board of Elections. The Republicans objected that it would cost the state money that the state doesn’t have while creating inefficiency and the potential for partisan "witch hunts."

The chapter amendment–which currently has no companion proposal in the Assembly, and has difficult path to becoming law–was ostensibly introduced by Sampson in order to add to a bill already passed in the Assembly and carried in the Senate by Daniel Squadron. That bill would blow up the Commission on Public Integrity, to its dismay, and "turn back the clock" to 2007, in the words of NYPIRG's Blair Horner. (Other good-government groups, like Common Cause, have said they did not support the Assembly bill without the Sampson bill.)

Sampson's chapter amendment failed by party-line vote of 31 to 29; Senator Brian Foley, a Long Island Democrat, was absent as he buried his father. Senator John Bonacic, a Hudson Valley Republican, was also not present. Once that happened, the Squadron bill was laid aside.

"It's just a political act by this body," Senator John DeFrancisco, a Syracuse-area Republican, said of the Sampson bill. "It's not as good a solution as the Squadron bill."

Democrats blasted Republicans for voting against the bill.

"They don't' get it–New Yorkers want reform," said Austin Shafran, a Democratic spokesman. "This is like the mustard without the hot dog, and Republicans leaving New Yorkers hungry for reform once again."