The front-runner to become speaker of the state Assembly continued the slow rollout of his policy platform Monday, pledging to back changes to the state’s reimbursement system for lawmakers and a cap on outside income.
Assemblyman Carl Heastie, D-Bronx, also promised to create an Office of Ethics and Compliance within the Assembly, which he says would offer guidance on how lawmakers should comply with ethics laws and rules.
In a statement Monday, Heastie backed an unspecified limit on the amount of private income state lawmakers can earn while requiring “broad new disclosure” of what they do to earn that money. On Saturday, Heastie said he would personally forego any outside jobs.
“I believe we must seize this opportunity for reform, and enact the type of lasting change that will make the Assembly more open, transparent, and accountable to the voters,” he said in a statement.”I look forward to working with my colleagues to develop and implement reforms like these, and others, so that the Assembly can regain the voters trust and start a new chapter.”
A group of about 30 Assembly Democrats — who have dubbed themselves the “Reform Caucus” — have been pushing for changes for the way the chamber operates, particularly urging the next speaker to reform the Assembly’s notoriously seniority-based ways. Speaker candidate Catherine Nolan met with the group earlier Monday; Heastie is set to meet with the group at 2:15 p.m.
Heastie’s reform proposals Monday had varying level of specificity. It’s not clear how the proposed Office of Ethics and Compliance would interact with the already existing Legislative Ethics Commission, which already exists to give both the Senate and Assembly guidance on compliance issues.
He also called for changes to the state’s per diem system for lawmakers, which allows them to be reimbursed $172 for each night they spend in Albany. But he didn’t say exactly what those changes would entail. Last year, Heastie claimed $23,441 in per diems and travel reimbursements, ranking him third among Assembly members.
In an interview Saturday with Gannett, Heastie said he would bolster the Assembly’s committee process and create a “Policy Review and Analysis Workgroup,” which would meet once a week and answer Assembly members’ questions about bills headed for a vote in the week ahead.
Heastie and Nolan are vying to replace Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, who will step down as speaker at 11:59 p.m. He was criminally charged last month with five federal counts that accuse him of collecting $6 million from private law firms without providing legal work in return as part of a kickback scheme. Silver has maintained his innocence.
(Mike Groll/AP photo)