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Governor Vetoes Ethics Bill, Says It Does Not Go Far Enough

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Gov. David Paterson vetoed the legislature's package of ethics reform, saying it "does not go far enough in addressing the corrosive effects of outside influence and internal decay," that he says plagues "Planet Albany".

Earlier in the day, the governor spoke of his concerns about the bills.

"I think we can do better," said Paterson, saying the people of the state "expect more of us".

A number of government reform groups panned the governor's veto as an "obstacle" to reform, including Blair Horner, with the New York Public Interest Research Group.

"He's chosen not to participate in the legislative process," said Horner, who called the move "a terrible mistake."

NYPIRG and others, including Citizens Union say the governor should have signed the bills, and then should have worked with legislature to get the rest of his reform agenda passed, including proposals for public campaign financing and term limits.

"The governor's approach is, 'It's my way or the highway'", said Horner. "Under that scenario, nothing gets done."

Paterson waited until lawmakers had adjourned for the week before announcing his veto, perhaps wary that legislators might attempt an immediate override. The bills -- which strengthen the Legislative Ethics Commission, create a new watchdog panel for the executive branch, and require greater disclosure of lawmaker's outside income -- passed nearly unanimously in each house.

Senate Democratic Leader John Sampson said in a statement that he would schedule an override vote.

But Senate Democrats don't have enough votes for the required two-thirds majority required in an override. They have just 32 votes. And the leader of the chamber's 30 Republicans, Sen. Dean Skelos, says his members might not participate in an override attempt.

"I don't believe it's something that should be overridden," said Skelos, saying he preferred to instead have discussions "to improve the bill."

During debate, GOP Senators had expressed concerns about some of the bill's specific provisions, and said they might have unintended consequences.

Barbara Bartoletti is with the League of Women Voters, one of the groups urging the legislature to override the veto. She says the governor's veto has given lawmakers who are happy with the status quo an excuse not to act.

"His stance is certainly going to give cover to any recalcitrant legislator," Bartoletti said.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver issued a statement saying he was "greatly disappointed" with the governor's veto, but did not indicate whether an override vote would take place in his house.

Just one government reform group says the governor did the right thing. Common Cause says the current ethics crisis demands "bold action, not small steps".

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