ALBANY – Lawmakers and other state officials could face new criminal penalties for not turning over information about people trying to bribe them. And limitations could be placed on immunity from prosecution for people testifying before grand juries in cases involving corruption by public officials.
Those were the latest proposals offered Tuesday by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in reaction to two busts by federal prosecutors of state lawmakers in the latest line of corruption cases here.
“There have been too many incidents for too many years,” Cuomo said at an event Tuesday in Manhattan where his proposals were endorsed by the statewide district attorneys association.
The package, not yet released in the form of legislation, would include making it a misdemeanor for lawmakers and other public officials to fail to report suspected wrongdoing by their colleagues.
Mylan L. Denerstein, the governor’s counsel, said the package would include new and expanded penalties in bribery cases. She said current state law, unlike federal statutes, requires prosecutors to prove that a bribe was both offered and accepted. The new proposal would allow a person offering a bribe to be charged, even if it was not accepted. The package of bills to give district attorneys more power in public corruption cases would increase penalties for defrauding the government and for not reporting bribery cases to prosecutors.
“It’s all about our taxpayer dollars,” Denerstein said. The proposals also would increase the severity of offenses from misdemeanors to one of three felony levels in instances of official misconduct, as well as ban those found guilty of corruption from holding elective or civil service jobs again.
Cuomo also raised the possibility of making the State Legislature a full-time body and increasing the current $79,500 salary. Technically, the Legislature is a part-time body, in session generally from January through June, though many lawmakers say they work full-time hours back in their districts when not in session. It is unclear what a full-time Legislature would mean, including whether Cuomo thinks it should meet year-round, thereby increasing operational costs.
The arrests last week in New York City of two state lawmakers, as well as the resignation of another who had been in trouble for election fraud but was wearing a wire for federal agents for the last several years while serving in the Assembly, have put a dent in the claims by officials that Albany’s culture has changed. While lawmakers say the vast majority of them are clean, there have been more than two dozen cases of various forms of corruption and sexual scandals and other improprieties in the last seven years.