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NYS Assembly Overrides Gov. Paterson's Veto of Ethics Legislation

By Ryan Morden

Oswego, NY – The New York State Assembly overrode Gov. David Paterson's veto of ethics legislation yesterday afternoon.

The vote failed in the state Senate, where Republicans and Democrats were left pointing fingers over who was to blame.

The only members expressing objections were Republicans who were in the minority in both houses of the legislature.

Some sided with Gov. Paterson who said, the bills to strengthen the legislative ethics commission better enforce campaign finance laws and require greater disclosure of lawmakers outside income, did not go far enough.

Hudson Valley Assemblyman Greg Ball lamented that the override could succeed.

"Because this means that true ethics reform in this state is now dead," said Ball.

In the end, Ball voted for the override, as did every other assembly member in the chamber.

Democrats, including Ron Canestrari, the majority leader, defended the bills saying they marked a much needed start to reform unethical practices.

"I vote in support of this bill and regret that Governor Paterson, unnecessarily in my opinion, vetoed it, said Canestrari.

But Assemblyman Joel Miller, also a Republican, accused other lawmakers of hypocrisy and said they do not need new laws to move against corrupt legislators.

"We stood here and we allowed other people in government who are crooks, mere crooks, almost crooks, over-the-top crooks, to simply remain as crooks in our houses and in their houses of the legislature," said Miller.

In the Senate, Republicans did not hesitate to vote against the override and side with the democratic governor.

Dean Skelos, Senate GOP leader, said the Democrats in the legislature were trying to kick Paterson while he was down.

"They're not happy with him that he's hurting politically so they're just going to give it to him a little bit more. Rather than sitting down with him and showing him the respect as governor, could have been this afternoon, could have been tomorrow, to sit down and at least afford him the opportunity to present his point of view in legislation," said Skelos.

Gov. Paterson, over the weekend, offered a compromised ethics bill and praised Senate Republicans for input he said he would receive from them. He called for five-way meetings with him and all four legislature leaders but Democrats say they weren't consulted.

Eric Schneiderman, the Senate sponsor of the ethics reform legislation, chided the GOP senators for voting "No."

"We can do better. We will do better. But the right way to approach this is not to make the perfect enemy possible, we should override," said Schneiderman. But he said he is still waiting for the governor's call.

In the end, nearly all Republicans in the Senate voted against the override and virtually all Democrats voted for it, with a 35 to 26 vote. Which fell short of the 2/3 majority needed to sustain the override.

Blair Horner, with the New York Public Interest Research Group, said Paterson's new alliance with the Senate Republicans provides cover for doing nothing, for now, on ethics reform.

"What the governor's trying to do, I think, is to throw another obstacle in the way of an override vote," said Horner.

After the vote, the partisan bickering grew more intense as John Sampson, Senate Conference Leader, issued a statement that said it was the Republicans who killed ethics reform.