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Government Affairs Albany Update

January 20, 2006

Summary of the Governor's Proposed Budget

The Government Affairs staff has compiled a summary of the major provisions of the Governor's proposed 2006-07 budget. We have also provided a link to the official budget documents from the Division of Budget.

Special Elections on February 28

Special elections will be held February 28th to fill six vacancies in the Assembly and one in the state Senate.

New "Gift" Standard for Lobbyists

The staff of the Temporary State Commission on Lobbying has issued new draft guidelines regarding the $75 cap on gifts from lobbyists and/or their clients to public officials, saying that the value of all gifts to a public official shall be aggregated over the calendar year to determine whether the $75 threshold has been exceeded. Previously, the Commission had interpreted the $75 cap as applying on a per event/per gift basis. While the legal status of this new standard has been questioned, Lobby Commission Executive Director David Grandeau has said that they are enforcing this new interpretation in 2006 and will continue to enforce it unless or until the Lobby Commission rules otherwise.

The Lobbying Act says that "No person or organization required to file a statement or report pursuant to this article shall offer or give a gift with a value in excess of seventy-five dollars to any public official as defined within this article." This means that both client organizations and lobbyists are subject to the new interpretation of the $75 per year threshold. For example, a lobbyist with multiple clients would be limited to an aggregate $75 in gifts to a specific legislator, irrespective of how many clients he or she represented; a client organization with multiple lobbyists would likewise be restricted to the $75 aggregate limit for each legislator.

This new Lobby Commission ruling is similar to the position taken by the State Ethics Commission. The Ethics Commission, whose jurisdiction applies to Executive branch employees and statewide elected officials, has long interpreted the Public Officers Law $75 cap as applying on a 12 month aggregate basis.

Click here for the Commission's new guidance. They will be reviewed at the Commission's next meeting on February 8.

High Speed Rail Study Released

The report presented to the Senate Task Force on High Speed Rail last week was released this week and is available on the New York State Senate High Speed Rail Task Force web page.

John Egan, Executive Director of the Task Force Work Group will brief The Business Council Transportation Committee on the report at its next meeting on February 7, 2006.