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AG Eric T. Schneiderman touts ethics reform bill

State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman speaks during a

State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman speaks during a press conference, where he presented a package of bills designed to prevent public corruption, held in front of the Nassau County Supreme Court in Mineola, Friday, May 29, 2015. Credit: Steve Pfost

State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman Friday touted an ethics reform bill that would ban outside income for state legislators, lower campaign contribution limits and end a daily stipend for lawmakers while they are in Albany.

At a news conference Friday in Mineola, Schneiderman said the bill is critical to restore public trust in government after the recent arrests of Albany's top two legislative leaders.

A federal grand jury on Thursday indicted former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) and his son, Adam, for conspiracy, extortion and soliciting bribes. In January, former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) was charged with taking nearly $4 million in bribes and payoffs.

Dean and Adam Skelos say they are innocent, and Silver has pleaded not guilty.

"The time for fundamental reform is here," Schneiderman said. "We have to seize this moment. Average New Yorkers are demanding we do so. I am done with halfway measures and so are the people of New York."

Schneiderman's End New York Corruption Now Act was introduced Friday by Assemb. Joseph Lentol (D-Brooklyn). Assemb. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) is a co-sponsor. A Senate bill has not been introduced and a Senate spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said it likely is too late in the legislative session, which ends June 17, to pass the bill.

"You realistically can't get a complicated issue done with this Senate and this Assembly, in the midst of everything going on, in a matter of days," Cuomo told reporters in Manhattan Friday. "That's not how it works."

The legislation would bar almost all outside income for state lawmakers, allow for compensation only for documented travel expenses and increase the length of the legislative term from two to four years. Legislators, who now earn $79,500 in part-time salary plus per diems, would see their pay increase to a minimum of $112,500 and a maximum of $174,000.

The measure would put strict limits on contributions from contractors and lobbyists, lower contribution limits from all other donors and create a public financing system for state candidates.

Kaminsky, a former federal prosecutor, said the bill's "common sense goals" will help reform the political system. "Real restrictions . . . will keep people in their lanes, from going out of those lanes and from doing the wrong thing," he said.

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