Assemblyman Carl Heastie, front-runner to become the next Assembly Speaker, vowed today to cap outside income for members of the chamber and consider banning it altogether in favor of a full-time legislature.
“I believe we must seize this opportunity for reform, and enact the type of lasting change that will make the Assembly more open, transparent, and accountable to the voters,” Mr. Heastie, a Bronx Democrat, said. “I look forward to working with my colleagues to develop and implement reforms like these, and others, so that the Assembly can regain the voters trust and start a new chapter.”
Current Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver will step down late tonight after being arrested last month on corruption charges. Outside income is at the center of the charges: Mr. Silver is accused of masking millions of dollars in kickbacks and bribes as outside income from law firms.
If he’s elected by his colleagues to be the next speaker, Mr. Heastie vowed he would earn no outside income and would step down as Bronx County Democratic Chairman. He would also require a new dislcosure to account for “every dollar legislators earn outside of public service,” his press release said. And he’d consider making the legislature full-time—and as a result banning outside work.
Mr. Heastie, in what a press release said were “first steps” to larger reforms, also promised to create an Office of Ethics and Compliance and to reform the Assmebly’s use of per diem reimbursements, which are meant to cover travel costs.
His pledges for reform come as some have wondered how much of a change Mr. Heastie, whose campaign spending has been questioned and was being investigated by the Moreland Commission, would be compared to Mr. Silver. A caucus of reform-minded Democrats have sat down with Mr. Heastie and his last remaining challenger, Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan.
Mr. Heastie’s proposed Office of Ethics and Compliance would be organized by a three-member team of Assembly members who would find its first Executive Director, a person who would not be a lawmaker.
As for per diem reform, Mr. Heastie vowed to “introduced new accountability and transparency measures” to the lax reimbursement system. That would include working with state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli to beef up reporting requirements and oversight.
The Assembly is likely to vote on its next speaker next Tuesday, February 10.