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Key legislator: State-contract accountability bills unlikely

ALBANY – The primary supporter of a set of bills that aim to shed more light on major state contracts said he doesn’t expect the measures to gain approval even as a second major corruption trial begins involving the Buffalo Billion economic development project.

“I know of nothing to breathe life into these bills,” said Assmb. Robin Schimminger (D-Kenmore), who sponsors many of bills and supports the others. The state legislative session is scheduled to end Wednesday and there was no plan as of Monday to bring the bills to the floor for a vote.

The bills, previously approved by the state Senate, are aimed at the state contracting and economic development deals by the Cuomo administration. In the Assembly, Republicans have said are bottled up the Democratic majority.

The proposals include a “database of deals” bill that would allow New Yorkers to search online for companies receiving tax breaks and a procurement bill would restore some of the oversight of state Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli over state contracting including pre-audits before state money is committed to avoid fraud, waste and conflicts of interest.

“I think it’s no secret that the (Cuomo) administration, which at one time heralded itself as the most transparent administration in North America, does not like these bills, yet they should,” Schimminger said in an interview.

Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi said the governor isn’t trying to influence the Assembly, noting it is a separate and co-equal branch of government.

Michael Whyland, spokesman for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, said last week the bills were under review.

Neither spokesman would comment this week.

The legislative session is scheduled to end Wednesday.

“The inability to move anything is striking,” said Susan Lerner of Common Cause-NY. “It is the governor’s interference and the people’s business is not getting done.”

Another veteran good-government advocates also see this year as uncommonly short on ethics measures.

“Corruption is a huge problem and they are choosing to ignore it,” said Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group. “Even after three decades of this work, it is shocking.”

On Monday, the second major corruption trial of the year began involving one of the Cuomo administration’s biggest economic development projects, two former Cuomo aides, and developers who were also big contributors to Cuomo’s campaigns. Cuomo isn’t accused of wrongdoing.

In March, Joseph Percoco, Cuomo’s former top aide and campaign manager, was convicted in an alleged bribery scheme.

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