Given the amount of unethical behavior that's gone on in Albany over the past few years, you might have believed that there's no such thing as the state Senate ethics committee. Well, it turns out there is such a thing, and lawmakers from the Democratic, Republican and Independent Democratic conferences dusted off their big books of ethics and actually convened a committee meeting yesterday for the first time in eight years. It didn't go great!
The ethics committee, formally called the State Senate Committee on Ethics and Internal Governance, finally held a meeting after eight years of silence and many years of malfeasance in both the state Senate and the Assembly. The Times reports that the announced meeting of the committee was such a to-do that it drew a big crowd of media and every member of the 8-person committee showed up in person.
Speaking of the payments, or lulus, which are supposed to be given to committee chairs but were instead given to vice chairs, prompting a state comptroller probe, mainline Democratic State Senator Michael Gianris attempted to get the committee to make a recommendation to the state Senate as a whole that "going forward only senators that hold specific positions enumerated in legislative law receive the allowances that law provides" at the beginning of the meeting.
That set off a confusing chain of events in which the committee chair, Republican Elaine Phillips, told Gianaris that the matter of lulus wasn't on the agenda and that she would ask the committee to table to motion and put it aside for the next meeting.
Gianaris responded that the committee "has been on pace to meet every once every eight years" and pushed to add the item to the agenda, which resulted in a lot of furious whispering into Phillips's ear by the Senate's legal counsel.
"How about those Golden State Warriors?" State Senator Gustavo Rivera asked during the silence. "They sure know how to play that basketball," he continued in the most excruciating small talk you'll ever witness short of a bitterly divorced couple trying to make nice at a dear friend's wedding. [Editor's note: I asked Dave if the above quote was one of his little jokes, but he insists, "No, I swear that's what actually happened. Skip to the 6:10 mark of the video.]
Phillips still refused to put the issue on the meeting's agenda, at one point telling Gianaris that the "matter is under litigation right now" speaking of the payments, before saying that actually the terminology of "under litigation" was perhaps not legally correct and took it back. In another highlight, Phillips accidentally told Gianaris his motion to overrule her ruling was accepted instead of ruled out of order, leading to some excited yelling. Finally, the question of whether to overrule Phillips was put to a vote...which ended in a 4-4 tie when IDC member David Carlucci voted with the three Democrats on the committee, which a spokesperson later told the Times was a mistake.
Other than that, the NY Post reports that not much happened at the committee meeting besides "minor resolutions" and everyone being pleased with themselves for actually meeting.
After the meeting, a talking fox was seen by multiple observers wandering the Capitol, delivering an ominous message: