Assembly boss Carl Heastie and the chamber’s Democrats have a long history of killing reform efforts.
In the wake of Gov. Cuomo’s resignation. Gov. Hochul pitched a new ethics idea — law school leaders in the state would choose members of a new ethics panel, and cut Albany lawmakers out of the new body’s selection process.
It was an instant non-starter in Heastie’s Assembly. The Albany Times Union noted the speaker was himself “lukewarm” about any reform to the the existing, much-troubled Joint Commission on Public Ethics.
JCOPE, the state’s top lobbyist watchdog, was ultimately replaced in 2022 by the new Commission on Ethics and Lobbying in Government. Members of the new body are chosen by the Governor, majority and minority leaders from the Assembly and Senate, the Attorney General, and the Comptroller. After all that, an “independent review committee” of law school deans would be able to vet the nominees.
Heastie’s longtime pal and former college roommate is powerful lobbyist Patrick Jenkins.
Heastie and Assembly Democrats are “running the state administration like it’s a one party state. It’s only pushback by the media and some other leaders that have avoided a kind of quasi-totalitarian regime,” Gary Lavine, a former JCOPE commissioner, told The Post.
Lavine slammed the Speaker for his role in an alleged illegal leak from JCOPE to then Gov. Cuomo in 2019 after several commissioners allegedly briefed the governor about plans to open a probe into close Cuomo pal Joe Percoco. An aide to Heastie reportedly then placed a call to JCOPE commissioner Julie Garcia, questioning her about how she voted on opening the probe.
“As the leader of the Assembly he should have take the position that we would not tolerate the subversion of ethics,” Lavine said.
Any Republican-led reform bills are dead on arrival under Heastie.
In 2022, Assemblyman Will Barclay, the minority leader, offered a resolution that would ensure every member have “at least one substantive piece of legislation discharged from committee and brought to a vote during each two-year term.” The resolution failed by a vote of 44-100.
That same year another measure would have allowed any bill or resolution sponsored by at least a majority of the chamber’s 150 members to appear for a floor vote — cutting into Heastie’s power. That too was killed.
Assembly Democrats followed up on that with new rules this month to limit the number of times each year members of committees could force votes on bills — a move which will effectively block the vast majority of GOP-sponsored legislation and spare Democrats embarrassing votes.
In a body where senior Democrats often rule their turf as mini-emperors, a 2020 effort by then-GOP Assemblyman Kevin Byrne to impose an eight-year term limit on the Assembly minority and majority leaders and committee chairs was handily voted down.
“The simple fact is that state government can – and should – run far more transparently than it is now. No other organization could operate the way we do and stay afloat,” Barclay told The Post.