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State Legislatures 2019

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks to supporters during an election night watch party Nov. 6, 2018.

Amid the more attention-grabbing proposals in Albany such as legalizing sports betting and recreational marijuana, we hope lawmakers don't lose sight of the importance of a comprehensive ethics reform package for the legislative session that kicks off Wednesday.

We agree with those who have been calling for closing the LLC loophole that allows wealthy individuals to create limited liability corporations to circumvent the state's campaign contribution limits — as well as a ban on corporate contributions to political candidates.

And the Legislature must also agree to give oversight of economic development spending to the state comptroller's office and make state contracts open to the public so that people will be able to see exactly where their money is being spent.

More recently, legislation has been drafted that would stop convicted officials from continuing to use their campaign funds while in prison, prohibiting the use of so-called "zombie accounts" to pay legal fees or support the political campaigns of others. Campaign accounts would need to closed out within two years of a conviction, with campaign contributions being returned to donors or donated to charity or to the state.

And Democrats, now in charge of the Assembly and Senate, need to incorporate some of their Republican colleagues' ideas, too, because crafting the best anti-corruption measures means working across party lines.

If anyone needed a reminder about how important ethics reform is for New York's government and its citizens, former state Senate leader Dean Skelos on Tuesday reported to a federal prison to begin serving a four-year sentence for selling his influence while holding office. And he is just one of about 30 officials to have left office since 2000 after being charged with legal or ethical transgressions.

There will be no excuse for failing to pass major ethics reforms this year, but care must be taken to bring everyone to the table to make sure any legislation is a good as it can possibly be.

The Citizen editorial board includes publisher Rob Forcey, executive editor Jeremy Boyer and managing editor Mike Dowd.

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