News Coverage on Dedicated Legislature
Inside look at outside incomes: From law to shearing sheep, online list shows officials' other earningsJimmy Vielkind
Newly elected Assemblyman Phil Steck earned at least $150,000 from his outside law practice in 2012, the highest income of any state lawmaker from the Capital Region.
Steck, a partner in the Albany firm of Cooper, Erving & Savage, also reported income from his service in the Albany County Legislature. The Colonie Democrat was elected to the Assembly last year, and said he's working to juggle his law practice with his duties as a legislator.
"I can't try cases while the Assembly is in session, so it's obviously going to have some impact on my ability to do things," he said. "I believe in a full-time Legislature, but we are not a full-time Legislature, so obviously I continue with a law practice."
Details about his and other lawmakers' incomes formally entered the public record for the first time this week when the state's Joint Commission on Public Ethics posted them online. State legislators technically work part-time and for years have been required to list outside occupations, with their earnings shielded from public view.
This at times has become an issue in elections, including several recent challenges to Sen.Neil Breslin, D-Bethlehem, when opponents pushed him to detail his earnings and clients as an of counsel attorney with the Syracuse-based firm of Hiscock & Barclay.
Breslin said he's "delighted" that the disclosure form has been released: it shows he was paid between $20,000 and $50,000 for legal work, and includes a certification that he did not work with or recruit any clients that have an interest before the Legislature.
"That's it," he said.
While some argue it's an unwelcome invasion of privacy, all the Capital Region lawmakers interviewed said they understood the need for disclosure requirements. Some items raised questions, which they answered.
Sen. Hugh Farley, a Niskayuna Republican who chairs the chamber's Banking Committee, listed holdings that include several blue chip stocks as well as between $75,000 and $100,000 of stock in TrustCo, a bank based in his district.
"It's a federally chartered bank that has nothing to do with the banking committee," Farley said, noting his holdings have grown over years by reinvesting dividends. "They've been a very good stock."
Assemblyman John McDonald, a freshman Democrat from Cohoes, said he had to cancel contracts at his family-run pharmacy with several state-funded group homes because of a potential conflict.
His filing showed he made at least $100,000 as president of the pharmacy. His filing shows between $75,000 and $100,000 of the pharmacy's business comes from patients in the state Medicaid program, but as more patients shift to managed care plans, the number has decreased.
Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin reported insignificant outside earnings in 2012, in which he stopped doing mortgage work for Citizens Bank and began working as a salesman for Monolith Solar. He has so far not been paid.
"Now that session's out, I've been working to put together more deals," said McLaughlin, R-Schaghticoke.
Other area lawmakers, including Sen. Kathy Marchione, R-Halfmoon, Assemblywoman Pat Fahy, D-Albany, and Assemblyman Jim Tedisco, R-Glenville, are treating their positions as full-time jobs and only reported outside earnings related to investments.
Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk, D-Duanesburg, wasn't pulling wool over anyone's eyes about her outside job: raising and shearing sheep, spinning their wool into yarn and selling it. She reported between $5,000 and $20,000 in income for 2012.
"She could make more raising elephants, but her full-time job already involves cleaning up after elephants," joked her spokesman, Jim Plastiras.