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Budget talk: Teacher eval commission may be in trouble; ethics bill weakening (Updates)

ALBANY - Closed-door budget negotiations are weakening Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s “critical” ethics measure for a state budget to be adopted on time.

Senate Finance Committee chairman John DeFrancisco said Cuomo’s ethics bill has been whittled down in the most recent “draft.” Cuomo had proposed that legislators who are lawyers and hold other outside jobs be required to disclose their clients to avoid conflicts of interest.

The State Senate and Assembly majorities have for years opposed disclosing private clients in the Capitol and in the courts.

DeFrancisco (R-Syracuse) said the measure could end up requiring legislators to disclose only clients who have business with the state.

State law already prohibits such conflicts and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) said Tuesday that lawmakers already have to report anytime they represent a client doing business with the state.

“We’re trying to narrow the necessary disclosure,” DeFrancisco, a lawyer, told reporters. “Necessary disclosure might be that if that person — the client — does business with the state, (or) ... a particularly sensitive issue that shouldn’t be out in the public. That’s the main issue.”

Cuomo bristled at that.

“What's being reported that Senator DeFrancisco is describing is not disclosure, it is current law,” countered Cuomo spokeswoman Melissa DeRosa. “As the governor has said, he will not enact a budget that doesn't include an ethics package with real disclosure of legislator's outside income, and he meant it.”

DeFrancisco also said after a closed-door Senate Republican conference that a recently proposed commission to overhaul the teacher evaluation system has hit a snag. He said one of three state leaders is opposing the measure.

He wouldn’t provide details, but said the compromise measure under discussion this week has hit a roadblock with either Cuomo, the State Senate or the Assembly.

Cuomo aides have cast doubt on the compromise measure since it surfaced Tuesday.

Cuomo had wanted to make student performance on standardized tests a bigger part of teacher evaluations to make the evaluations more rigorous. The teachers unions and the Assembly’s Democratic majority, however, strongly oppose that move saying the test scores can’t accurately be used to rate teachers.

The budget is due by the end of Tuesday.

Closed-door negotiations continue.






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