Neither snow nor rain, nor gloom spread by prosecutors stopped the New York State Assembly from business as usual.
Abandoning even the facade of a vetting process for its new leader, the Assembly's Democratic conference picked Bronx party chairman Carl Heastie as its next speaker. The official vote is Tuesday.
It was only a week ago, in the aftershock of Sheldon Silver's downfall, that members set a Feb. 10 vote for the next speaker, one of the most powerful positions in the state. The supposed intent was to debate a specific path for change and a review of the members who would lead them down it. In the ensuing week, however, downstate Democratic county chairs arm-twisted enough members to rush Heastie through before his support unraveled.
Meanwhile, Monday in a speech at New York University's law school, Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an ultimatum for the current session: No ethics reform, no budget deal. He's willing to take the budget process hostage until legislators relent on more scrutiny of their finances. Cuomo wants either a total ban on outside income or the nation's toughest law on disclosing how that money is earned. In addition, he proposes strict rules on how campaign funds can be spent and passage of a constitutional amendment that would strip a legislator of his or her state pension if convicted of corruption.
Cuomo's proposal seems a direct challenge to Heastie, who last year collected the third-highest amount of per diems, $23,441, for travel to Albany. The speaker-to-be reportedly has failed to itemize the spending of $60,795 from his campaign funds. Heastie Monday gave no evidence that he truly wants to upend Albany's "pay to play" culture.
Heastie said he will appoint a task force to study the limits on outside income and create a new office to help members comply with ethics rules.
Not a promising start.