Update on Committee Investigations

From Assemblyman Jeff Klein
Chair, Committee on Oversight, Analysis and Investigation

Message from the Chair

Dear New Yorker:

As the 2003-2004 Legislative Session moves into the summer months, I wanted to share with you many of my accomplishments as Chair of the Assembly Committee on Oversight, Analysis and Investigation. Since the first Public Eye was introduced in March of 2003, much has been happening. I promised then to keep you advised of my Committee’s activities reviewing the implementation and adequacy of laws and programs to ensure compliance by government agencies.

Much of the Committee’s efforts in 2004 focused on security, budget and procurement reform, the protection of our water supply, and several consumer issues. This Public Eye will provide updates on some issues reported to you in prior issues, and will report on some new Committee activities.

I continue to welcome your thoughts, your ideas and your requests for legislative inquiries. You can reach me at any of the addresses noted below. Also, please regularly check this Assembly website for future Public Eye postings and Committee reports.

Jeff Klein, Chair
Committee on Oversight, Analysis
and Investigation

Public Eye 2004 Session Round-Up

Cybersecurity: Computer Inventory

In June 2003, the Oversight Committee released “For the Sake of Security: An Assessment of New York State Government Cyber Security,” which detailed the Committee’s investigation of New York State government computer security. Government computers store information about the State’s critical infrastructures, personal data, infectious diseases, criminal records, financial documents and more. Violations of computer security can cost millions of dollars, can be life threatening and can erode the trust between government and the citizens it serves. This Committee report detailed how the Office for Technology’s (OFT) failure to release a statutorily required computer inventory and the Office’s use of outdated software and standards has put State computers at risk. Release of the Assembly report prompted OFT action. OFT finally issued the required report, replaced outdated technology standards, upgraded software and added Information Security Officers.

Cybersecurity: Hacker Bill

One of the June 2003 Report recommendations called for legislation to ensure the security of personal information in cyberspace. I introduced A.9184, the Security Breach Information Act, known as the “Hacker Bill”, which will provide innocent people with notice if their personal information, stored on government or business computers, may have been compromised by a hacker. This legislation is working its way through the legislative process and has the support of the New York Civil Liberties Union and the Privacy Rights Clearing House. As a crucial element in protecting personal information, I will continue to advocate its passage.

Procurement Reform: Computer Inventory

In addition to cyber-security issues, some information technology (IT) procurement issues were also raised in “For the Sake of Security: An Assessment of New York State Government Cyber Security.” Additionally, Public Eye #2 (May 2003) and Public Eye #3, (August 2003) reported on the long-delayed and overdue Inventory of Computer Assets from the State’s Office for Technology. The lack of a comprehensive inventory of the State’s computer assets puts the State at risk of losing hundreds of millions of dollars.

The report which OFT finally released ten months late, a “Baseline Statewide Information Technology Inventory,” left many questions unanswered. The report was missing critical details necessary for state budgeting, including equipment replacement scheduling and costs. The Oversight Committee will continue to monitor the State’s computer assets while encouraging OFT to address the deficiencies in their inventory control process.

Procurement Reform: Statewide Wireless Network

The Committee’s continuing efforts to investigate procurement activities in the State led to hearings focused on the proposed $1 Billion contract award for a Statewide Wireless Network (SWN). In December 2001, OFT issued a request for proposals (RFP) to obtain a new, statewide wireless communications network that would provide an integrated public safety land mobile radio communications network for State, Federal and local governmental entities. When the RFP was issued, OFT estimated the cost would be approximately $300-$500 million. On April 30, 2004, OFT announced a contract award which exceeded these forecasts by hundreds of millions of dollars. The Assembly hearing received testimony from OFT and the bidders. Serious questions remain regarding the true cost of this “system”, and the actual and real benefits it represents to local governments. Oversight will continue to monitor this major procurement activity.

Budget Reform: Budgeting for Information Technology

Public Eye #2 (May 2003) reported on budgeting for IT and Chairman Klein’s legislation (A.6977) to reform how this budgeting is done. IT contracts are a significant and growing fiscal obligation to the State valued at $9.6 billion dollars in FY 01-02 alone. This legislation would enhance the information detailed in the State budget regarding IT contracts.

This bill was made part of the Assembly’s Omnibus Budget Reform legislation (A.9615) which passed the Assembly in February of this year. Klein’s IT provisions became part of a Joint Budget Conference Committee agreement which passed both houses in June of this year. This legislation (A.11702) will improve and reform the budget process in New York State and provide the Legislature with another tool to make informed, long range budget decisions.

Water Security: Water Supply Emergency Plans

The issues surrounding the security of our water supply were reported in Public Eye #1 (March 2003), Public Eye #7 (March 2004) and the report “Unchartered Waters” (February 2004). This report, issued by the Assembly Committees on Oversight, Health, and Environmental Conservation documented the state of water supply emergency planning in New York. Public Eye #7 discussed the report’s recommendations to ensure that overdue plans are completed and approved as soon as possible. Legislation (A.11142) was introduced and passed in the Assembly on June 7, 2004 addressing several of the report’s recommendations:

  1. to clarify which water supplier must file a water supply emergency plan;
  2. to recognize the role of County Health Departments in the planning process; and
  3. to enhance penalties when water supplies are compromised.

Assemblyman Klein, in front of closed fire house #36 in Harlem, announces investigation into the closings.
Hearings On Fire House Closings: March 4, 2004 & April 30, 2004

On May 25, 2003, the NYC Fire Department closed six fire companies, ostensibly for budgetary reasons. The fire companies were in Harlem (#36), Cobble Hill (#204), Bedford-Stuyvesant (#209), Greenpoint (#212), Astoria/Long Island City (#261) and Sunset Park (#278). Assembly hearings were held in March and April of 2004 to investigate the effects of these closings on the affected neighborhoods. Statistical evidence emerged that suggested response time may have increased more thanthe Fire Department forecast. Actual response times were in excess of city estimates. While the City had predicted that average, city-wide response times would rise by 1 second, they actually rose by 11 seconds in the ten month period following the fire house closings.

Cable: Consumer Friendly Cable

After release of my Committee’s report “Time to Change the Channel: Cable Television Prices in New York State” in March of 2003, legislation was introduced to address problems identified. A.11176 requires a cable operator’s rate and programming notices to be in plain, conspicuous and clear language. A.11177 requires that a cable operator must include in its rate and programming notices information regarding a subscriber’s ability to purchase per channel or per program services without having to buy any service tier beyond the basic tier. A.7358 adds a new §231 to the public service law making it unlawful for a cable television company to discriminate in the selection, terms, or conditions of carriage of video programming on the basis of affiliation or non-affiliation of video programming vendors. These consumer friendly changes will further protect cable television subscribers.

PUBLIC EYE #8 (July 2004) is the eight in a series of updates from Chairman Jeff Klein detailing his work as Chair of the NYS Assembly Oversight, Analysis and Investigation Committee. Other issues will follow. The Committee is charged with reviewing implementation and adequacy of laws and programs to ensure compliance by the public and government agencies. Through its monitoring and investigative activities, it seeks to determine whether programs are operating as required and whether funds allocated for programs are spent effectively, efficiently and in accordance with legislative intent.

District Office:
728 Lydig Avenue, Bronx, NY 10462, 718.409.0109

Albany Office:
Room 637, Legislative Office Building, Albany, NY 12248, 518.455.5844

Committee Office:
Agency Building 4, 12th Floor, Albany, NY 12248, 518.455.3039

New York State Assembly
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