Spin Cycle

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ALBANY - ALBANY -- Backers of a stricter ethics law for state legislators met behind closed doors Friday with the staff of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo as legislative leaders tried to negotiate a deal that is key to a state budget agreement.

But the advocates said they learned nothing about how the bill may have changed in private negotiations with Senate Republicans, or if a deal was near.

Cuomo has issued only a news release and speech -- with few details and no bill language -- on the proposal he said is critical to spotlighting conflicts between legislators' public roles and private jobs.

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It includes disclosure of lawmakers' clients from outside jobs, and new restrictions on using campaign funds and per diem payments that have little oversight. Lawmakers are paid $172 in per diem payments for days they work away from their districts.

The Assembly's Democratic majority has agreed to it, but Cuomo continues to negotiate the measure with the Senate's Republican majority.

"We gave our suggestion on how to strengthen it beyond the news release," said Susan Lerner of Common Cause-New York.

Lawmakers are aiming to approve a budget by Wednesday, the beginning of the state fiscal year. Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) said they expected to begin printing noncontroversial budget bills last night, which would make them eligible for a vote on Monday.

Cuomo has tied his ethics proposal to the state budget. He said if the Legislature rejects it he will make the budget late and use a provision of law to insert the measure into emergency spending bills.

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Cuomo's proposal to toughen teacher evaluations also was still under negotiation yesterdayFriday.Cuomo has proposed that senators and Assembly members with outside income be required to divulge their clients in an effort to avoid conflicts of interest that have been at the heart of several of Albany's corruption scandals.

But critics, including former state lobbying commission executive director David Grandeau, say Cuomo's proposal has a major loophole, in that it would allow lawmakers to continue to collect big paychecks as advisers to law firms without having any clients assigned to them.

Cuomo made his ethics package a priority after former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) was arrested in January and accused of using his private law practice and public power to secure millions of dollars in kickbacks and bribes. Silver, who remains in the Legislature, said he's innocent of the charges.

"From our view, we want a much more robust response," said Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group after meeting with the governor's lawyers.

Skelos said Friday that an ethics deal requiring "robust disclosure" was near, but he wouldn't describe it until all sides agree to it.

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With Yancey RoyALBANY -- Backers of a stricter ethics law for state legislators met behind closed doors Friday with the staff of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo as legislative leaders tried to negotiate a deal that is key to a state budget agreement.

But the advocates said they learned nothing about how the bill may have changed in private negotiations with Senate Republicans, or if a deal was near.

Cuomo has issued only a news release and speech -- with few details and no bill language -- on the proposal he said is critical to spotlighting conflicts between legislators' public roles and private jobs.

It includes disclosure of lawmakers' clients from outside jobs, and new restrictions on using campaign funds and per diem payments that have little oversight. Lawmakers are paid $172 in per diem payments for days they work away from their districts.

The Assembly's Democratic majority has agreed to it, but Cuomo continues to negotiate the measure with the Senate's Republican majority.

"We gave our suggestion on how to strengthen it beyond the news release," said Susan Lerner of Common Cause-New York.

Lawmakers are aiming to approve a budget by Wednesday, the beginning of the state fiscal year. Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) said they expected to begin printing noncontroversial budget bills last night, which would make them eligible for a vote on Monday.

Cuomo has tied his ethics proposal to the state budget. He said if the Legislature rejects it he will make the budget late and use a provision of law to insert the measure into emergency spending bills.

Cuomo's proposal to toughen teacher evaluations also was still under negotiation yesterdayFriday.Cuomo has proposed that senators and Assembly members with outside income be required to divulge their clients in an effort to avoid conflicts of interest that have been at the heart of several of Albany's corruption scandals.

But critics, including former state lobbying commission executive director David Grandeau, say Cuomo's proposal has a major loophole, in that it would allow lawmakers to continue to collect big paychecks as advisers to law firms without having any clients assigned to them.

Cuomo made his ethics package a priority after former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) was arrested in January and accused of using his private law practice and public power to secure millions of dollars in kickbacks and bribes. Silver, who remains in the Legislature, said he's innocent of the charges.

"From our view, we want a much more robust response," said Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group after meeting with the governor's lawyers.

Skelos said Friday that an ethics deal requiring "robust disclosure" was near, but he wouldn't describe it until all sides agree to it.

With Yancey Roy