Public servants who are convicted of corruption should not continue to collect a pension earned during public service. Legislators who violate their duty to the people of New York should not continue to be paid by the people of New York in any way. The Governor proposes the adoption of a joint resolution that will require pension forfeiture after a legislator is convicted of a crime related to their public office, regardless of when that legislator was elected to office.
The JCOPE Review Commission issued a report in 2015 that detailed multiple changes to enable JCOPE to do its job better. In response, the Governor proposes a package of much-needed changes to JCOPE to increase transparency and enhance its enforcement powers. All public officers are required to file Financial Disclosure Statements, but good government groups and the public alike have called for strengthening these disclosure requirements.
Governor Cuomo therefore proposes legislation that would authorize JCOPE staff to seek documents in support of statements made on the FDS, increase enforcement authority against public officers who fail to comply with JCOPE audits, and create District Attorney oversight over those who willfully submit deceptive financial information on the FDS. This legislation would also eliminate the categories of value on the FDS to require public officers to report actual amounts. Finally, this legislation would impose financial penalties for all violations of the Public Officers Code of Conduct contained in Section 74 of the Public Officers Law, and would create “accessory liability” to allow JCOPE to fully prosecute persons who aid and abet violations of the Public Officers Law.
The New York Constitution provides that, every 20 years, New Yorkers must vote by referendum on whether to hold a convention to amend the State constitution. The next referendum will take place in 2017, and Governor Cuomo believes a constitutional convention offers voters the opportunity to achieve lasting reform in Albany. The Governor will invest $1 million to create an expert, non-partisan commission to develop a blueprint for a convention. The commission will also be authorized to recommend fixes to the current convention delegate selection process, which experts agree is flawed.
New York has 19.8 million residents, yet only 11.7 million New Yorkers are registered to vote. In the last non-presidential election year, only 29 percent of registered voters participated – less than one in three. In the last presidential election, only 53.6 percent of registered voters participated.
Currently, New Yorkers can vote early via absentee ballot, but only if they meets certain qualifications such as being absent from his or her county on Election Day or being unable to get to the polls due to a disability. For many working New Yorkers, it can be difficult to get to the polls on Election Day.
To increase voter participation, Governor Cuomo proposes legislation that will allow New Yorkers to vote early in all elections. This legislation will require every county to offer residents access to at least one early voting polling place that will allow residents to vote for 12 days leading up to Election Day. Voters will have at least eight hours on weekdays and five hours on weekends to cast early ballots. Counties must have one early voting polling site for every 50,000 residents and the bipartisan county boards of elections will determine the specific location of early voting polling places, subject to standards of convenience and accessibility. Early voting will increase participation and make our elections more inclusive and democratic.
Governor Cuomo is committed to modernizing the voter registration system. This year, the Governor will make New York the third state in the nation to adopt automatic voter registration at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Citizens can already register to vote at the DMV, but the current process is unnecessarily onerous, requiring a potential voter to include additional voting information in their application for a DMV service. Under the new system, unless a DMV user opts out, the information used in any DMV application will be automatically sent to county boards of elections to register the applicant or update registration information. New Yorkers who do not wish to register to vote can simply check an "opt out" box. This change will help maintain accurate voter rolls and facilitate New Yorkers' participation in elections.
Governor Cuomo proposes legislation that will allow concerned taxpayers from across the State to access more information about where and how money flows from the state to private citizens. The Office of the State Comptroller and the Attorney General already have various powers to undertake audits and investigations regarding the use of State funds. However, under current practice, these two offices do not coordinate when they are auditing state vendor contracts with private businesses. The Governor’s legislation would direct the Attorney General, the Office of the State Comptroller, the Office of Information Technology Services, and the Office of General Services to conduct a study and make recommendations regarding initiatives that would better enable the public to track state contracts.
Our lobbying laws must be strengthened to close existing loopholes and enhance enforcement. This legislation will require political consultants who advise state or local elected officials to register as lobbyists, and will repeal the exclusion for activities of commission salespersons from the definition of “lobbying.” Further, the Governor proposes legislation that will impose a $10,000 penalty on a lobbyist who fails to comply with an audit by JCOPE, impose financial penalties for already-illegal “contingent fee agreements” for lobbyists, and require mandatory electronic filing so that all lobbyists would also be subject to federal wire fraud charges for misstatements.