Norris: Among Clouds, Sunlight Needed

Assemblyman Mike Norris (R,I-Lockport) would like constituents to know about recent progress on his efforts to bring greater transparency and accountability to state government, particularly as it relates to the billions of tax dollars spent on economic development.

“The guilty verdicts in the Percoco case proved to New Yorkers that corruption is still a huge problem in Albany, even at the very highest levels of government. Throughout this governor’s administration there have been billions of tax dollars spent on economic development without any clear oversight or understanding of how, when, where or why these public monies have been spent,” said Norris. “When I was first elected, I introduced legislation known as the State Contracts Sunlight Act and, I am proud to report some progress on this initiative.”

The State Contracts Sunlight Act (A.5857) would require the state comptroller to develop a statewide, public, searchable database of all bids for contract, state contracts and any additional information. It would also require oversight from the state attorney general.

Measures similar to Norris’ legislation were passed by the Assembly recently, including legislation to make it easier to submit a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request to every state agency (A.2131) and provide greater access to state records, making sure FOIL requests are not unduly denied (A.3463).

Norris said he was encouraged that other measures more closely related to his State Contracts Sunlight Act were included in the Assembly’s one-house budget. The proposals would require greater financial disclosure by economic development entities created by the executive branch, and hold these entities to FOIL requests, a code of ethics and open meetings law. Furthermore, the proposal calls for the creation of a statewide public, searchable database of all state subsidies and aggregate economic development benefits. Though this proposal was just a one-house measure, Norris said it shows that his colleagues in the Assembly share his concerns over the need for economic development reform.

“This is a good sign, and as we continue negotiating the state budget, I am hopeful that serious economic development reform – including disclosure and accountability measures – will be included in the final agreement. I will continue working to make sure that our tax dollars are invested in programs that result in real, lasting jobs and to bring more sunlight to the cloudy halls of our state Capitol,” said Norris.