A lulu of a controversy at state capitol

May 17, 2017 07:50 PM

ALBANY - What seems hardest to believe about legislative lulus is that even longtime government watchdog Blair Horner wasn't aware of what was happening.

"I'm surprised this is the practice," Horner admits, "I didn't know this was the practice in the first place. Sometimes things surprise me."

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The thing that surprises the longtime NYPIRG executive director is that even though he believes stipends are intended to supplement the income of legislative committee chairmen, at least seven state lawmakers who don't chair committees are receiving payments.

"It's very disturbing," says Senator Neil Breslin (D - Bethlehem), "You try to live to a code of ethics around here and you see that. It's government money and it's being distributed in my opinion in an illegal way and it reflects on all of us."

Breslin believes the payments are illegal even though legal counsel for the senate GOP insists everything is on the up and up.

"It's a legal opinion that was issued and it says it's constitutional and lawful," Senator Cathy Young (R - Olean) told reporters, "That's all I know about it."

As of now, three members of the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) are collecting the stipends in question: Diane Savino, Jose Peralta, and David Valesky, as well as four republicans: Patricia Ritchie, Thomas O'Mara, Pamela Helming, and Patrick Gallivan.

"It's ont thing to have a legal opinion that you can share among a bunch of lawyers, it's the court of public perception where this is usually tried and held," said Assemblyman John McDonald (D - Cohoes), "And honestly right now it's not going over well."

"From our view, from a taxpayer perspective," Horner adds, "The money should be going to the individuals who do the work. In the case of committee, it's the chair who does the work to run the committee. They're the ones who should be eligible not anyone else."


Dan Levy

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