- See more at: http://blogtimenow.com/blogging/automatically-redirect-blogger-blog-another-blog-website/#sthash.Q6qPkwFC.dpuf Serrano Looks to Reform Member Item Spending | Bronx News Networkbronx

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Serrano Looks to Reform Member Item Spending

A bill unveiled today by Sen. Jose M. Serrano—whose district includes Melrose, Mott Haven, Morris Heights and Highbridge—aims to change the way member item funds are distributed, according to a press release. The bill, which is a joint effort between Serrano and Assemblywoman Sandy Galef of Ossining, would make it easier for taxpayers to see how their lawmakers are spending public funds.

“This bill indicates a very common sense approach to this issue by adding additional layers of scrutiny and transparency to a process that, for too long, has been shrouded in mystery,” Serrano said in a statement.

Member items are public funds doled out to legislators that they can spend on local activities, usually through community groups and nonprofits. Over the past few years, a disturbing number of Bronx lawmakers have gotten into trouble for allegedly misusing them. Councilman Larry Seabrook, Councilwoman Maria del Carmen Arroyo, State Sen. Pedro Espada, Jr. and former State Sen. Efrain Gonzalez have all made headlines for their alleged mishandling of taxpayer dollars.

Serrano and Galef's bill would require legislators to make their member item spending open to public comment and to report any conflicts of interest. Groups that receive funding would have to be pre-certified by the Attorney General, and state agencies would be given the power to oversee distribution of the funds, according to a press release.

The bill also calls for the money to be equally allocated between members of the Senate and the Assembly (right now, funds are distributed disproportionately, usually with the majority party getting more.) Both Serrano and Galef have stated that they won't currently accept or distribute member items. More here.


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