Statement by Cam Macdonald
June 7, 2019
Executive Director, Government Justice Center
Earlier today the Supreme Court in Albany issued a decision declaring null and void the prohibitions and limitations on outside income for lawmakers recommended by a hand-picked committee last December. The plaintiffs continue to disagree that the legislature could hand over its law making power to an unaccountable committee and will consider their appeal options going forward. The Government Justice Center remains dedicated to protecting the rights of New Yorkers in the face of improper action by state or local governments and encourages the legislature to keep this in consideration as they move toward the end of session.
You can read the decision here.
The Government Justice Center (GJC), a non-partisan legal center founded last year to protect taxpayers from improper government action, filed a lawsuit in state Supreme Court in Albany to block unconstitutional actions by the state Committee on Legislative and Executive Compensation.
The committee, created as part of the state budget adopted in March, on Monday moved to raise state lawmakers’ base pay by 64 percent, radically change the rules surrounding serving in the state Legislature, and raise the pay of the governor and other state elected officials and appointees.
“The Government Justice Center’s job is to take action when government breaks the rules, and our state government is definitely breaking the rules here,” said GJC executive director Cameron Macdonald. “The Legislature violated the constitution by delegating its lawmaking power to this committee. But even worse, letting that committee set the pay for members of the State Assembly and Senate violates explicit language in the state constitution.”
Macdonald said the committee also violated the state Open Meetings Law by discussing key issues in private.
The complaint, posted here, seeks a declaratory judgement and a permanent injunction to block the committee’s recommendations from becoming law, can be read here. The GJC is representing the plaintiffs, Assemblyman Michael Fitzpatrick of Suffolk County, two taxpayers from Saratoga County and one from the Bronx, pro bono.
The lawsuit follows a string of wins in which the GJC succeeded in making state and local government agencies comply with citizens’ Freedom of Information Law requests. The GJC has also moved to stop the collection of more than $60 million a year in illegal fees by Suffolk County.