It is a New Year, and we look forward to reviewing the details of Governor Paterson’s ethics reform package for New York State.
We hope that it will be accompanied by an open, public conversation about what has been done in other parts of the nation to restore faith in and improve the workings of state and local governments. The goal should be the best ethics laws in the nation – there are true-life examples of what works and what doesn’t, a little homework on the part of lawmakers and good government advocates is all that is needed to shape a meaningful reform effort.
When New York State lawmakers last addressed ethics reform, in 2007, a law written by then-Governor Elliot Spitzer and the leaders of the Senate and Assembly was presented without a public hearing, then passed without debate or public comments a few weeks later, leaving in place a bifurcated system of oversight, weak disclosure laws and lack of enforcement that ensured that the scandals would continue. It was the first time the legislature had passed a significant ethics reform law in twenty years. And it was a tragic, lost opportunity.
We’ll be writing more about this in the next few weeks, reviewing ethics laws in other states and commenting on the proposed NY reforms as they are unveiled, over at our ReformNY blog.