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NY Senators Plan Ethics Discussion With Online Public Participation

ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- New Yorkers long fed up with the behavior of politicians in Albany were expected to get a chance to tweet their opinions on a myriad of bills aimed at cleaning up state government.

New York's Senate Democrats plan what they claim will be the first ethics discussion in Albany in which New Yorkers will be able to comment through the Internet. Wednesday's forum will use a technology that will likely include Twitter to allow New Yorkers statewide to comment on the Democrats' proposals.

The bills include creating a nonpartisan commission to redraw election district lines, stripping convicted elected officials of their pensions, and restricting the use of campaign funds.

Democratic Sen. Daniel Squadron of Manhattan said the Democratic minority called the session because the Republican majority has so far refused to grant them a public hearing on ethics bills.

"It will be the first forum that will be interactive," Squadron said. "When you talk about reform, we're taking the bull by the horns, because the Republicans won't take it up."

The forum is scheduled for noon Wednesday in Albany.

Senate majority spokesman Scott Reif said it was the Democrats' own rules, enacted when they held the majority a year ago, that restricts spending on public hearings.

"While the Senate Democrats talk about ethics, our members are working with the governor and Assembly to put in place historic reforms that will allow us to turn the page on the serious ethical lapses Democrats were known for when they were in the majority," Reif said.

Republicans favor a constitutional amendment to change the redistricting process, but Democrats complain that will put off reform another 10 years, avoiding the redrawing of district lines next year.

Majorities have traditionally redrawn election district lines to protect their incumbents. Republicans have noted that when the Democrats held the majority from 2008 to 2010, one of their leaders, Sen. Malcolm Smith, said his conference would redistrict Republicans "into oblivion."

In Albany, majority parties have substantial control over legislation and process. Republicans hold a 32-30 majority in the Senate.

Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo has promised to seek an expansive ethics reform bill in this legislative session as one of his top policy goals. The Legislature returns to session Monday after a two-week break and the session is scheduled to end in late June.

Do you think Albany has an ethics problem? Leave a comment below…

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