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NY Democrats propose $70G outside income limit for lawmakers

New York State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, shown

New York State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, shown here at the New York Athletic Club on March 11, 2016, said on March 14, 2016, that the plan to limit lawmakers' outside income would help restore public faith in lawmakers. Credit: Craig Ruttle

The Democrat-led state Assembly has proposed limiting lawmakers’ outside incomes in the wake of recent ethics scandals that have shaken up New York politics.

At about $70,000 annually, the chamber’s suggested income limit is higher than one proposed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, $11,925. In contrast, the Republican-controlled Senate has opposed any limits on outside incomes.

The push for limits follows the convictions of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos on corruption charges related to their outside earnings.

Watchdog groups criticized lawmakers’ ethics proposals, calling the Assembly’s too weak, the governor’s advocacy lacking and the Senate “missing in action.”

New York state legislators are considered part-time and earn a base pay of $79,500, though many of them get stipends that push average pay above $90,000. There is no limit on outside incomes, though the majority of the 213 legislators earn no or little money through other jobs.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx), who succeeded Silver, said his plan would help restore public faith in lawmakers.

“The majority of legislators come to Alban to serve their constituents and build stronger communities,” Heastie said in a statement. “Our plan to address outside income will help rebuild the public’s faith in their representation and ensure serving in the Assembly is the primary focus.”

The Democrat’s proposal also would prohibit a legislator from receiving any payment for the use of his or her name in promotional materials (such as websites and company letterhead) “unless the legislator performs work for the firm.”

Notably, it also would ban legislators from collecting legal referral fees “for simply recommending a lawyer.” Part of the Silver scandal hinged on his collecting referral fees without performing any legal work.

A coalition of good-government groups expressed “shock” Monday that lawmakers were doing so little to address ethics following the conviction of the leader of each legislative house.

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