Senate passes legislation to reform state’s ethics commission

New York News

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Senate Democrats passed a package of bills designed to reform a commission to judge ethics among state officials.

The Joint Commission on Public Ethics, or JCOPE, was created in 2011 as an independent group to restore integrity in state government, but it’s been criticized as being heavily influenced by the majority political party. Democrats say this package of bills will help change that.

The omnibus JCOPE reform bill removes partisan advantages built into the appointment process, giving the legislative leaders of each conference two appointments.

It would also remove the requirement that state officials can be investigated or found guilty of ethical violations by JCOPE only with the votes of at least two members of their own political party. They now would just need a vote of any eight members of the commission.

Another bill would impose anti-sexual harassment training for lobbyists in Albany.

“Government officials need the public’s trust in order to do their jobs effectively, so it’s crucial that we hold our public officials to the highest possible ethical standards,” said Senator Sean Ryan (D). “Removing partisan impediments to JCOPE’s operation in high-profile investigations will help ensure that they remain above reproach and are able to take appropriate measures to hold any official who breaks the law accountable.”

Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt claims the result of these bills will be “a more politicized commission with less accountability.” His statement continues:

This one-house bill comes at a time when Senate Democrats have done nothing in their power to actually hold the Governor accountable. They have repeatedly rejected using their subpoena power to demand answers about the growing list of Cuomo scandals — including the cover up of nursing home deaths, his $5 million book deal, and multiple allegations of sexual harassment.

This bill is intended to give the appearance they are doing something, but like the Assembly impeachment investigation, it is window dressing to provide cover for their members who have not taken a single action to hold the scandal-scarred Governor accountable.

Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt

Senator Rachel May (D), a co-sponsor of the legislation, tells NEWS10 the purpose of the package goes back further than the current issues with Governor Cuomo.

“In general, we don’t have effective ethics oversight in New York State,” said May, “and that is one reason why we have such a history of corruption in our state government.”

Other ethics reforms measures passed by the Senate Majority includes one that would extend the time frame for victims to report complaints to the Division of Human Rights.

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