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Hoylman bills would close 'glaring' ethics loopholes

May 06, 2013
Sen. Brad Hoylman, D-Greenwich Village, has introduced two pieces of legislation in the hopes of curbing the string of corruption scandals overtaking New York politics. The bills, referred to as an "ethics patch," would close loopholes that exempt elected officials in Albany who are convicted of felonies from forfeiture or loss of their pensions.

"The indictments of public officials from both parties underscore the rotten and pervasive 'pay-to-play' culture in Albany. They also revealed glaring loopholes in the state's new ethics laws," Hoylman said in a press release announcing the introduction of the two bills.

The new legislation comes following the arrest of Sen. Malcolm Smith, D-Hollis, and Assemblyman Eric Stevenson, D-Bronx, who were charged with bribery and public corruption.

The first bill, (S.4836) is an "act to amend the retirement and social security law, in relation to forfeiture of pension rights or retirement benefits upon conviction of a felony related to public employment."

Hoylman notes that an ethics reform package introduced in 2011 applies only to state legislators elected after 2011, which exempts every legislator already in office at the time of its implementation. His bill would rectify that without the need for "a cumbersome and lengthy constitutional amendment process by tying the acceptance of per diems for all legislators — not just those elected after 2011 — to an agreement to forfeit their pensions in the event of a felony conviction for corruption."

The second bill, (S.4807a) is described as an "act to amend the retirement and social security law, in relation to clarifying the identity of courts having jurisdiction relating to a conviction of a felony as grounds for forfeiture of a public officer's New York state pension benefits."

This bill also deals with the ethics reform package from 2011, which has a loophole that the ethics reforms only apply to officials convicted in federal court. Hoylman said in his press release that the second bill would close this loophole and make it so that any convicted public official, no matter what court they are tried in, would be subjected to the pension ban.

"We must take every opportunity available to help restore public confidence in state government and I hope my colleagues in the state Senate will join me in supporting these two straightforward and common sense proposals," Hoylman said.

The two bills have been referred to the Senate Civil Service and Pensions Committee and have no same-as in the Assembly or co-sponsors in the Senate.

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