ALBANY — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said the seat held for more than two decades by former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver before his corruption conviction Monday will be filled in a special election on the day of New York’s presidential primary next year.
In setting the April 19 special election, Cuomo also said ethics reform will again be a top priority when the legislature returns to Albany in January. This comes after he and legislative leaders for months have rejected calls by good-government groups to hold a special session by the end of this year to enact tougher ethics and disclosure laws.
“I don’t think a special session is practical coming into the holiday season,” Cuomo said Tuesday. “But it will be on the agenda soon enough in January.”
Waiting until after the April 1 start of the 2016-17 fiscal year could avoid a power struggle in the state Senate during budget negotiations should former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, who is also on trial on corruption charges, be found guilty and forced from his seat. Republicans control the Senate by a slim majority over Democrats, who are split into two factions.
Cuomo said he wants to ban outside jobs for legislators or require full, detailed disclosure of who they work for and exactly what they do for the income.
“Legislators always get into trouble for the same thing: It’s their outside income,” Cuomo said in Manhattan. “The way to end that is to have a full-time legislature . . . and you are not allowed an outside income.
“My guess is the majority of the legislature is opposed to it on philosophical grounds.”
But not everyone — not after Silver’s conviction and as Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) is on trial in a separate corruption probe.
Sen. John Bonacic (R-Mount Hope) said Tuesday that Silver’s case is too shocking to ignore.
“I believe that if we ban outside income from active employment for elected officials and pay them a livable wage to raise their families, it will go a long way to cure the temptation of a few to engage in this type of bad behavior,” said Bonacic, a veteran in the Senate’s Republican majority.
Legislators are paid a part-time salary of $79,500 a year, but committee and leadership positions as well as the per-diem payment for work in Albany pushes most salaries to more than $100,000 a year.
A commission created by Cuomo and the legislature is now at work devising salary raises for legislators, statewide elected officials and judges.