Senator Klein Proposes Banning Outside Income for Legislators

20141104-IMG_4257Yesterday the leader of the Independent Democratic Conference, Senator Jeff Klein, announced a plan calling for a complete ban on non-legislative income.

As part of an ethnics plan, the proposed ban would not allow any state lawmaker to earn outside income including, “advances for books”, according to Klein’s press release. “The public expects and deserves the highest standards from public officials. The current climate in Albany has left us with a simple choice: serve the public full-time or collect a full-time salary out of office,” said Senator Klein.

The four-point ethics plan includes:

  • Banning Outside Income – No state lawmaker would be permitted to earn an outside income, including advances for books. Any violation of this law, if passed, would result in prosecution as a class-A misdemeanor and an up to $50,000 fine issued by JCOPE. Only military service would be exempted.
  • Blind Trusts for Assets – Like Congress, the IDC proposes that all income earning assets be placed in a blind trust overseen by a JCOPE approved trustee.
  • Closing the Disclosure Loophole – Every legislator who serves must file a financial disclosure form – even if his or her term concludes before the May 15 filing deadline.
  • Per Diem Limits and Accountability – Public officials may only collect per diems on session days, budget hearing days and committee hearing days when attendance is taken. Lawmakers could also receive reimbursements for an additional 14 days of to visit staff in Albany, but must check-in with the Secretary of the Senate or the Assembly Clerk as proof of attendance.

Violation of the plan would result in a misdemeanor and a $50,000 fine by the state ethics committee.

In a show of good faith, Senator Klein said that he is divesting from Klein Calderoni & Santucci LLP, a Bronx law firm where he is partner. According to Klein’s financial disclosure record, his income at the firm was between $76,000 and $100,000. He also had additional income for legal side work and teaching as an adjunct professor at Mercy College.

“I think that now that we’re in an ethical crisis, drastic actions need to be taken. I’m always someone who believes in leading by example, so that’s why I decided to no longer collect a salary from my firm. My name will be removed from its sign and its website. I’ll no longer see any clients or handle any cases.”

The IDC’s four-point ethics plan follows on the heels of Senate Democrats unveiling of a 12 piece ethics package on Monday and the federal corruption charges against former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

The Senate Democrats ethics package calls for a cap on outside income at 15% of lawmakers gross salaries and the establishment of a legislative compensation commission to evaluate their pay. At the same time, Governor Andrew Cuomo has proposed his own ethics package that would force lawmakers to reveal their outside clients and restrict them from having clients who have business before the state.

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