THE NEW YORK STATE ASSEMBLY
COMMITTEE ON OVERSIGHT, ANALYSIS AND INVESTIGATION
THE 2004 ANNUAL REPORT
|December 31, 2004
The Honorable Sheldon Silver
Dear Speaker Silver,
It is with great pride that I present to you the 2004 Annual Report of the Assembly Standing Committee on Oversight, Analysis and Investigation. Contained within this report are summaries of the Committee’s major activities during 2004 and planned future activities. Also included are two appendices which list all committee reports issued and public hearings held since 1987.
As I leave the New York State Assembly to join the New York State Senate, I am proud to have had the opportunity to lead the Oversight Committee. Acting as the "eyes and voice" of New York’s citizens, the Committee has monitored State agencies’ activities, assessed their compliance with New York law and tried to ensure that legislative intent was followed.
Among the Committee’s oversight activities in 2004 were:
As Chair of the Oversight Committee, I have been privileged to work with you, the Chairs of other Assembly Standing Committees and my Assembly colleagues, in fulfilling the Assembly’s mandate to strengthen accountability and efficiency in state government.
Chair, Assembly Committee on
Oversight, Analysis & Investigation
|TABLE OF CONTENTS
LEGISLATIVE OVERSIGHT:The Role of Legislative Oversight
The Function of the Oversight, Analysis & Investigation Committee Introduction
Water Supply Security
Procurement Reform - Budget
Procurement Reform -Statewide Wireless Network
Procurement Reform - Lobbying
Procurement Reform - eMedNY
Insurance Issues Post 9/11/01
Subject Matter Lists
Survey of Asthma Prices in NYC
The Public Eye: Update on Committee Investigations Unchartered Waters
Shopping for Asthma Drugs Firehouse Closings
Statewide Wireless Network
Insurance Issues Post September 11, 2001
Legislative oversight is the most effective means of enforcing legislative intent, ensuring that a program actually works, and promoting sound policy decisions. Oversight investigations shed light on governmental and non-governmental actions to ensure honesty and efficiency in the administration of laws. The oversight process considers whether programs operate in a manner consistent with the requirements placed upon them and whether funds are effectively spent. By providing key information on program performance and spending, oversight lays the foundation for sound policy judgments.
The oversight function is critically important now, as State and local governments continue to deal with the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Government and private entities must increase security measures at many locations across the State to reduce our vulnerability to further attacks. As the economy recovers, State funds must be directed to the most pressing problems and issues, and must be used as efficiently as possible.
The power of the New York State Legislature to conduct oversight activities is inherent in Article III of the State Constitution. The Constitution allows the Legislature to appoint Committees to investigate matters relating to the property and affairs of government and the State. The Constitution empowers the Legislature to modify and assign new functions and powers to executive departments.
Several laws and rules reinforce the Legislature’s mandate to conduct oversight. Legislative and Civil Rights laws allow a legislative committee to require the appearance of witnesses at a hearing. The State Finance Law reinforces the Legislature’s "power of the purse" by requiring legislative appropriations before any State monies are spent and by limiting the ability of the Executive to move money from within and between agencies.
The Assembly’s oversight role was strengthened when its House rules were amended to allow standing committees more time to focus on oversight. Specifically, House Rule IV, §1(c), was revised to require all standing committees to "devote substantial efforts to the oversight and analysis of activities, including but not limited to the implementation and administration of programs, of departments, agencies, divisions, authorities, boards, commissions, public benefit corporations and other entities within its jurisdiction."
The Oversight, Analysis and Investigation Committee plays a number of important roles in furthering the Assembly’s oversight activities. The Committee:
Reviews implementation and adequacy of laws and programs:
Conducts program and budget reviews:
Helps create a climate for change:
Acts as a resource to other Assembly standing committees:
Oversight actions help to ensure government institutions live up to their statutory requirements. Additionally, the Committee examines problematic areas of commercial, business or other non-governmental activity. A major responsibility of the Legislature is ensuring that programs are executed in accordance with legislative intent. With this goal in mind, the Committee on Oversight, Analysis and Investigation is charged with evaluating programs in New York State. Research, outreach, information gathering and legislative development are all employed to improve the level of accountability, honesty and efficiency of New York State government.
During 2004, the Committee was involved in a number of diverse projects, some of which had begun in other years. Investigations were sparked by recent events, the interests of the Committee Chair and other Assembly members, and some investigations were done in conjunction with other Assembly Standing Committees and Commissions. Legislation was introduced and advanced to address problems identified during these investigations.
The Oversight Committee’s major focus in 2004 continued to be on security. The Committee investigated the security of New York State’s and New York City’s water supplies and the security of personal information in cyberspace. In addition, the Oversight Committee has been investigating and uncovering serious problems with procurement practices in New York State for several years, which continues to spur the Committee’s broader involvement in procurement law reform to ensure more accountability in purchasing practices. Efforts to improve and create effective new laws addressing this important and crucial portion of the State’s economy were continued in 2004.
The Oversight Committee has been engaged in a long-term look at the security of New York State’s water supply. In 2002, Chairman Klein introduced legislation, which became Chapter 405 of the Laws of 2002, requiring water suppliers statewide to update their emergency plans to include an analysis of the threat of terrorism. These plans, to be reviewed and approved by the State Department of Health (DoH), were to have been submitted in January of 2003. After a yearlong review of efforts to comply with this law, Assemblyman Jeff Klein released a report, "Uncharted Waters," in February 2004, detailing deficiencies in statewide water supply emergency planning. The report, issued by Assembly Oversight, Health and Environmental Conservation Chairmen Klein, Gottfried and DiNapoli, found that:
DOH responded to "Uncharted Waters" by claiming that the majority of plans were in some state of approval, and that most of the deficiencies were not security-related. The Department’s public comments led the Committees to request, yet again, information regarding the current status of plan approval, along with information raised by their public comments. After a four-month wait, the State Department of Health submitted some of the requested updated information.
Chairmen Klein, Gottfried and DiNapoli reviewed the Department’s response. After the report was published, Assembly staff met with officials from the State Department of Health. At this meeting, the report was discussed as well as possible legislative remedies.
Because of the Chairs’ persistence, there has been some progress. Plan approvals increased by 7.8% (28 systems). Plans for two of the four cities identified in the Committees’ report which did not have full approval, finally received approval. However, there were still 163 systems with less than final approval, and in some cases the corrective actions were stalled. Eighty-six (24% of 356 plans) were overdue.
Assemblymembers Klein, Gottfried and DiNapoli introduced legislation, which addressed findings in the report. Assembly bill A. 11142 would bring state law into compliance with federal standards, tighten up the administrative process and increase the penalties for contamination, interruption and abuse of our water resources. A.11142 would also allow for recovery of damages relating to repairing permanent or substantial damage to the environment. Despite Klein’s outreach to the DOH regarding their view of the Assembly legislation, no input was received. The bill, A.11142, passed in the Assembly on June 7, 2004.
The Committee will continue to work with the DOH to resolve the outstanding issues identified in the report and seek resolution on water supply emergency planning and preparedness.
As a crucial element in protecting personal information in cyberspace, Chairman Klein introduced A.9184, the Security Breach Information Act. Known as the "Hacker Bill," A.9184 provides innocent people with notice if their personal information, stored on government or business computers, is compromised by a hacker. On August 12, 2004, A.9184B passed the Assembly by a vote of 142 to 0. The Oversight Committee has been working on an assessment of state cyber security and anticipates publishing a report detailing that assessment in early 2005.
The Oversight Committee continued to investigate and uncover serious problems with procurement practices in New York State for several years. Efforts to improve, recommend and create effective new laws addressing this important and crucial portion of the State’s economy continued in 2004. Procurement legislation was developed and incorporated into landmark budget reform.
Chairman Klein’s legislation (A.6977) sought to reform how procurement budgeting is done. Procurement contracts for Information Technology (IT) represent a large and growing portion of the State Budget. The Office for Technology’s 2003 Baseline Statewide Information Technology Inventory reported 2,828 data processing consulting and contracting service contracts with FY 2003-04 expenditures alone totaling $623 Million.
Key provisions of A.6977 include:
This bill was made part of the Assembly’s Omnibus Budget Reform legislation (A.9615) which passed the Assembly in February of 2004. These IT provisions became part of a Joint Budget Conference Committee agreement, which passed both houses in June. This legislation (A.11702) will improve and reform the budget process in New York and provide the Legislature with another tool to make informed, long-range budget decisions. Unfortunately, Governor Pataki vetoed this legislation on November 15, 2004.
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, and press reports suggested a cost of at least one billion dollars.
Wondering why a $300 to $500 million estimate in 2001 for a Statewide Wireless Network (SWN) could swell to a purported $1 Billion contract in 2004, the Oversight Committee, working with the Assembly Standing Committees on Governmental Operations, Local Governments, Ways and Means, Codes and the Corporations, Authorities and Commissions, held hearings to seek answers. The State's Office for Technology (OFT) and the SWN bidders testified about the procurement process.
In these public hearings many local first responders expressed doubts about their ability to participate in SWN. 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.
Procurement lobbying reform legislation aims to increase public disclosure of the state agency and authority procurement process. Following is some of the legislation pursued in 2004 which were an outgrowth of Oversight Committee projects.
In 1998, the New York State Health Department began efforts to replace and enhance the Medicaid Management Information System. The new system, known as eMedNY, was to replace out-of-date technology and substantially enhance front-end detection of Medicaid fraud.
Given the Oversight Committee’s past involvement in reviewing large scale information technology contracts, Oversight investigated the State Department of Health’s development of this new system. Its review found contract overruns and delayed implementation dates. While originally scheduled for completion by July 2002, all of eMedNY is still not up and running and the contract has been extended to March 2005. The contract amount has increased by over $140 million.
The Committee expects to continue monitoring development and implementation of eMedNY in 2005.
The attack on the World Trade Center had a ripple effect on many spheres of people’s lives. For the residents and small businesses of Lower Manhattan, commercial insurance has become a significant issue as they rebuild their lives.
On May 7, 2004, the Oversight Committee and Insurance Committee conducted a joint hearing on commercial insurance issues arising from the September 11 attacks.
The nature of the insurance problems broke down into two broad categories. The initial problem was timely and fair settlement of claims from damages suffered on September 11, 2001. The lingering problem has been dramatic increases in the cost of commercial insurance for small businesses, condominiums and cooperatives, especially in the Lower Manhattan area.
On each of the two broad issues, the Committees received testimony from a broad range of local residents, businesses and public officials, as well as from the State Insurance Department and from insurance industry representatives.
Regarding the timely and fair settlement of claims, the topics included descriptions of specific claims that remained unsettled, troubling patterns and practices of denying claims by some insurance companies, and Insurance Department programs to track and expedite the thousands of claims that resulted from the September 11 attack.
Regarding the dramatic increase in cost for commercial insurance, the actual price trends were documented. The components of cost-such as increased risk assessments, geography, rates of return on companies’ investments and companies’ profits-- were explored in detail. Expert witnesses discussed the respective roles of State and federal governments in regulating the insurance and re-insurance markets, and the effectiveness of federal legislation guaranteeing re-insurers from terrorism losses. And, the Committees heard of the very practical problems of residents and small businesses literally trying to rebuild offices and homes while confronted with large increases in insurance costs.
On May 25, 2003, the New York City Fire Department closed six fire companies for budgetary reasons. The fire houses were in Harlem (No.36), Cobble Hill (No.204), Bedford-Stuyvesant (No.209), Greenpoint (No.212), Astoria/Long Island City (No.261), and Sunset Park (No.278).
The Fire Department forecast that the effect of the closings on the surrounding neighborhoods and the City as a whole would be negligible. Minimal increases in response times for fires and other emergencies were a key element of the Department’s forecast. Statistical evidence emerged suggesting that response times may have increased more than the Fire Department forecast.
The Committees on Oversight, Codes and Cities intended to gather evidence regarding the real world consequences of closing the six fire companies. Witnesses were asked to direct their remarks to the following questions:
These 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 than the 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.
The Oversight Committee conducted a survey in 2003 of cable prices throughout New York State. The survey results were published in a report released in March 2003 entitled "Time to Change the Channel: Cable Television Prices in New York State". The report set forth specific prices for each of the cable companies, and compared rates and programming offerings in different parts of the State.
Legislation was introduced in 2004 to address the report’s recommendations. Assembly bill A.11176 would require cable companies to supply rate and programming information in plain language. In addition, legislation was also introduced to require cable companies to provide clear information to consumers regarding premium and pay-per-view options and rates (A.11177). In May 2004, both of these bills were referred to the Assembly’s Corporations, Authorities & Commissions Committee for further study. Assembly bill A.7358 adds a new section 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 based on affiliation or non-affiliation of video programming vendors. Hopefully these consumer friendly changes will further protect cable television subscribers.
According to New York State’s Freedom of Information Law, Public Officers Law, Section 87 (3)9c), subject matter lists must be available to the public. Every state agency must provide a comprehensive list of topics of correspondence to facilitate filing an accurate and acceptable Freedom of Information request.
The Committee continued its joint review, with the Assembly’s Administrative Regulations Review Commission, of state agency compliance with this provision of law during 2004. Oversight staff also examined New York State Agency websites to see if there was a link available in order to access the Subject Matter List. While at the website, Oversight staff also tried to find a link to Freedom of Information forms, instructions and finally, even a reference to FOIL. The Committee findings will be compiled in a report in 2005.
The high price of prescription drugs has forced some consumers to buy medicine from Canada, over the internet and through mail order. State and local governments have started to offer drug discount card programs for uninsured and elderly residents. At the federal level, the debate continues on the success of the 2003 Medicare drug card program, which is set to expire in 2006.
In August 2004, Chairman Klein released a report "Shopping for Asthma Drugs: A Survey of Prices in New York City". Asthma drugs were selected for the survey because of the prevalence of asthma in New York. NYC children suffering from asthma are three times more likely to require hospitalization than children in the rest of the country. Oversight staff visited 148 pharmacies in New York City from February to May 2004 to find the price of a "market basket" of ten different asthma drugs.
Pharmacists first were asked for the Drug Price List of 150 Drugs as required by Education Law Section 6811 (22). Many pharmacies could not or would not provide the list. Price data for the ten asthma drugs were supplied by the pharmacies. The average "market basket" for all stores was $682.49. Brooklyn had the lowest priced "market basket" at $662.18, while Manhattan had the highest at $697.90. Independent pharmacies were cheaper on average than any of the large chain pharmacies. Only 98 of 148 pharmacies, or 66% complied with the Drug Price List Law. This finding of non-compliance confirms findings found in earlier reports by Attorney General Spitzer and by the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG).
Recommendations from Oversight’s 2004 "market basket" survey suggest that consumers should ask for generic equivalents and always compare prices before buying. The State Board of Pharmacy should administratively enforce the Drug Price List Law. Legislation to update the misdemeanor provisions of Education Law section 6811(22) should be made to reflect the change from "posting" the Drug Price List to "providing" the Drug Price List.
In March 2003, Assemblyman Klein released the first in a series of updates detailing his work as Chair of the New York State Assembly Oversight, Analysis and Investigation Committee. The "Public Eye" is intended to keep the public informed of Oversight Committee investigations and to track remedial actions that are taken to address problems identified.
Following are summaries of the three "Public Eyes" released during 2004:
Public Eye #6 (February 2004): Assemblyman Klein’s Involvement Drives State and Local Action Protecting Children from Exposure to Recalled Products: The focus of this Public Eye was Assemblyman Klein’s longstanding interest in the issue of product recalls, particularly relating to children’s products. Assemblyman Klein’s introduction of the New York Children’s Product Safety Act will ensure better consumer awareness and assure parents that child care settings are safe and secure. The Act’s key provisions include:
The New York State Office of Children and Family Services took administrative actions to address problems in this area.
Public Eye #7 (March 2004) Klein Law Helps Close the Gap in Emergency Planning: The Oversight Committee’s long term look at water supply security was the focus of this Public Eye. Passage of Chapter 405 of the laws of 2002 required water suppliers statewide to update their emergency planning to include an analysis of the threat of terrorism. These plans, to be reviewed and approved by the State Department of Health (DoH), were to have been submitted in January of 2003. After a year-long review of efforts to comply with this law, Chairman Klein released a report "Unchartered Waters," on February 8, 2004, which detailed deficiencies in statewide water supply emergency planning. (For more information, please see the Committee Projects section of this Annual Report.)
Public Eye #8 (July 2004) Public Eye 2004 Session Round-Up: Many of Oversight’s efforts in 2004 focused on security, budget and procurement reform, the protection of our water supply and several consumer issues. The following issues were summarized in Public Eye #8:
Cybersecurity: Computer Inventory: In June 2003, the Oversight Committee released "For the Sake of Security: An Assessment of NYS Government Cyber Security," which detailed the Committee’s investigation of NYS government computer security. Oversight’s efforts prompted OFT to issue the required assessments, replace outdated technology, upgrade software and add 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, which led to the introduction in September, 2003 of A.9184. This bill is called the Security Breach Information Act, but is also known as the "Hacker Bill." This legislation has the support of the New York Civil Liberties Union and the Privacy Rights Clearing House.
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 Public Eye #2, (August 2003) reported on the long-delayed and overdue Inventory of Computer Assets from the State’s Office for Technology. The report which OFT finally released ten months late, a "Baseline Statewide Information Technology Inventory," left many questions unanswered. 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). 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.
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. 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 2004. The IT provisions became part of a Joint Budget Conference Committee agreement that passed both houses in June 2004. 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). "Unchartered Waters" 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.
Cable: Consumer Friendly Cable: After release of the Oversight Committee’s report "Time to Change the Channel: Cable Television Prices in New York State" in March 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.
As Senator-elect Jeff Klein will be moving on, a new Chairman will be chosen in 2005 to lead the Oversight, Analysis and Investigation Committee. The Committee’s direction and focus may change, but its mission remains clear. Oversight investigations that shed light on governmental and non-governmental actions will ensure honesty and efficiency in the administration of laws. By providing key information on program performance and spending, oversight will continue to lay the foundation for sound policy judgments.
UNCHARTERED WATERS: A Study of
Compliance with New York laws governing water supply emergency
planning - February, 2004
SHOPPING FOR ASTHMA DRUGS: A SURVEY
OF PRICES IN NEW YORK CITY August, 2004
FOR THE SAKE OF SECURITY: An Assessment of New York State Government Cyber Security - June 2003
The Oversight Committee’s release of "For the Sake of Security: An Assessment of New York State Government Cyber Security" detailed the Committee’s investigation of New York State government computer security. This report detailed the Office for Technology’s (OFT) failure to release a statutorily required computer inventory and its use of outdated software and standards which put state computers at risk. Release of the report led OFT to replace outdated technology standards with new standards, upgrade to supported software and add Information Security Officers where required.
NO ROOM IN THE PLAYGROUND: A Report Examining Playground Space in New York City Elementary Schools - September 2003
Chairman Klein directed the Oversight staff to investigate New York City’s compliance with New York Education Law §2556 (5) which states, in part, that "it shall be unlawful for a schoolhouse to be constructed in the City of New York without an open-air playground attached to or used in connection with same." This report revealed that inadequate outdoor recreation space was available to New York City’s elementary school children, and that State and City agencies failed to consider outside playground space as both a priority and a mandatory requirement for active and healthy children. The report recommended that the State Education Department step up its current authority over playground sites, maintain current data, annually review placement of temporary classroom units (TCU) and expand the Joint Operating Playground program to provide more facilities to schools suffering from insufficient outdoor playground space.
TIME TO CHANGE THE CHANNEL: Cable Television Prices in New York State - March 2003
In response to rising cable TV prices, the Oversight Committee conducted a survey in 2003 of cable prices throughout New York State. This report set forth specific prices for each of the cable companies, and compared their rates and programming offerings in different parts of the State. Based on the report’s recommendations, legislation was introduced in 2004 to require that cable companies supply rate and programming information in plain language and that such information should specify consumer premium and pay-per-view options and rates.
NYC WATER INFRASTRUCTURE: Is Security Water-Tight -- May 2002
The Oversight Committee began its investigation of compliance with security measures for New York City’s water infrastructure system in August 2001. Following the September 11th attack, the Committee accelerated its review because of the belief that New York City’s water supply could be considered a target for terrorism. As a result of this investigation, the report offered suggestions for upgrading security at water facilities in order to bring them into compliance with State Department of Health and Federal Environmental Protection Agency recommendations.
ADULT HOMES IN CRISIS: Plan for Reform -- June 2002
The Oversight Committee joined with the Assembly Committees on Health, Mental Health and Aging to investigate the poor conditions and inappropriate health care provided to residents of adult homes. An in-depth investigation included meetings with the State Commission on Quality of Care for the Mentally Disabled, the State agency responsible for investigating complaints regarding quality of care, advocates and other State agency officials; detailed information requests to the Departments of Health and Mental Health; and public hearings. Many of these investigative activities, along with proposed reform legislation, were reflected in this report from all four Committee Chairs.
CONNECTIONS: An Investigation of New York’s Statewide Child Welfare Computer System -- March 2001
The Oversight Committee and the Committee on Children and Families released their joint report: Too Much, Too Little, Too Late. An Assembly Investigation of CONNECTIONS- New York’s Statewide Child Welfare Computer System. This report marked the culmination of a two-year investigation of the flawed computer system, which was supposed to help child welfare workers better track children in foster care.
Too Much, Too Little, Too Late details the Committees’ findings related to: problems with the CONNECTIONS system and their impacts on children and families; procurement issues; State agency management and administration of the CONNECTIONS contracts; and costs and fiscal impacts. This also presents administrative, budget, and legislative recommendations. These recommendations helped in moving the system forward, strengthened legislative oversight of the project and related costs, and ensured that similar problems do not recur with future large information technology projects. The report won the 2001 Notable Documents Award, in the category of Public Policy, from the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Losing Our Children: An Examination of New York’s Foster Care System -- May 1999
The Oversight and Children and Families Committees released "Losing Our Children: An Examination of New York’s Foster Care System," a report which detailed the Committees’ findings identifying factors that have contributed to the breakdown of the State’s foster care system. Specifically cited in the report were issues related to State oversight, the implementation of State laws, child welfare financing, State agency administration, and the provision of child welfare services. The report won the Notable Documents Award by the New York Library Association.
Who’s Minding the Store? Is New York State’s Governmental Accountability, Audit and Internal Control Act Working? -- October 1997
The study was initiated due to the impending sunset of the Act on January 1, 1999. In addition, the years preceding the report had seen large-scale, top-level personnel changes as well as the elimination, consolidation, and downsizing of agencies. The report concentrated its analysis on the 34 agencies considered by the Division of Budget to be at the highest risk. The report studied internal control programs and internal auditing practices for the years 1994, 1995, 1996 and the first half of 1997. The report found that:
Of the 34 agencies examined:
Putting the Pieces Together...A Report Examining Computer Technology in New York State’s Public Schools -- May 1996
Given substantial expenditures on computers and other technology resources in schools, this report examines the numerous funding streams which support technology. It also begins to assess both schools and the State Education Department’s efforts to plan for technology. The report concluded that, for the most part, the computer is not integrated within the curriculum. The causes of this deficiency include: a lack of proper oversight of schools and BOCES Regional Information centers by the State Education Department (SED); 75% of computers are out-dated despite annual increases in computer expenditures; telecommunication costs for rural districts are prohibitively high; deficient infrastructure in many - chiefly urban - schools precludes computer installation; SED does not properly track several State aid funding streams; teacher training/staff development and technical assistance is under-funded; and there is inadequate planning for school technology.
To better realize the goal of computer integration into the education process, the report makes several recommendations. (1) SED should develop a long-range plan to overcome a persistent inequity in resources among schools and the inadequate levels of staff development/teacher training. (2) SED should improve its oversight of and outreach to schools, by creating a widely accessible clearinghouse of education technology resources, and statewide technology standards for schools. (3) The State needs to have a better handle on how technology resources are being utilized. The State should then look to more effective allocation plans, perhaps merging numerous funding streams.
The Cable Picture -- Assembly Oversight, Analysis and Investigation Committee Staff Report Examining the Industry and Regulators -- November 1994
Committee staff issued a comprehensive report on the performance and regulation of the cable television industry in New York. The Cable Picture provides in-depth analyses of the past, present and future of the cable industry in New York State, its finances, growth and practices, and the governmental bodies that regulate the cable industry. The report includes numerous recommendations for the State and municipalities to strengthen oversight efforts, and ways for the State to prepare for and regulate the emerging telecommunications industry.
The project began under the chairmanship of Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, and was broadened by Chairman Anthony Genovesi to evaluate those telecommunications issues relating to privacy, and to make recommendations for legislative action, if necessary. The investigation included: detailed surveys of cable companies and municipal officials; on-site visits and discussions with municipal officials and cable operators; interviews with the State Commission on Cable Television (CCTV), other State agency officials, private consultants and telecommunications experts; and, analyses of Federal and State laws and regulations, municipal franchises, and voluminous amounts of data and written material.
Closing Report on New York City’s Attempt to Award a $1.15 Million Contract Without Competitive Bidding -- July 1992
This report, a follow up to New York City’s Attempt to Award a $1.15 Million Contract Without Competitive Bidding (October 23, 1991), concludes the Committee’s review of New York City’s attempt to award a $1.15 million contract without implementing the competitive bidding process. Based on meetings and information obtained from New York City government, the Committee determined that the City might have been able to follow accepted procurement procedures, instead of evading them, had it acted promptly to issue a request for proposals.
Required Reports Listing -- May 1992
This report compiles reporting requirements contained in statute and budget language from 1981 through 1991. The report was distributed to Assembly committee chairmen and staff and serves as another resource in evaluating program performance. The listing includes the legal citation (chapter or section of law, or both), which agency prepares the report, who should receive the report, when and how often the report is to be issued, and a brief summary of the report’s subject.
State Agency Report Filing With the New York State Library -- March 1992
After several failed attempts to obtain public documents from the New York State Library that were required to have been filed there, the Committee reviewed implementation of the State’s document depository program. As of 1986, the State Library had only one third of all State documents, which restricts access for New York State citizens to documents that would help them better understand and follow the operations of State government. Legislation was enacted, resulting from recommendations in this report, to improve government accountability through greater access to State government documents. (The report was awarded the New York Library Association’s third annual Notable Documents Award.)
Investigation into New York City’s Attempt to Award a $1.15 Million Contract Without Competitive Bidding -- October 1991
This report charges New York City with attempting to award, without legally required competitive bidding, a $1.15 million contract pursuant to the Safe Streets, Safe City Omnibus Criminal Justice Program. The contract was for a study to assess resource deployment at the New York City Fire Department (NYFD) and determine whether the NYFD should assume additional emergency response duties, and to determine where fire houses should be located. Although given clear instruction from the Legislature that the project is subjected to required procurement procedures, the City attempted to award the contract through the Research Foundation of the City University of New York, which is subject to less restrictive competitive bidding requirements than the City.
Interim Report Examining Certain Art Market Practices -- June 1991
This report details the findings and recommendations of an 18-month examination of New York’s art market practices conducted by former Oversight Committee Chairman Richard Brodsky and former Tourism, Arts & Sports Development Committee Chairman Joseph Pillittere. The joint-Committee examination was initiated after it was learned that Van Gogh’s "Irises," which sold for $53.9 million in 1987, was financed by a major auction house that used the painting as collateral for the loan. This type of financing raised concerns about auction house financing practices as well as high costs and public access to art. Based on hearing testimony and research, the Chairmen determined that certain auction house practices fueled both an increase in the price of art and the transfer of art from public to private hands, as a result of museums selling off, or deaccessioning artwork. The Committee Chairmen identified key issues, some of which Assemblyman Brodsky is pursuing through the legislative process.
Failed Promises: New York State Agencies’ Environmental Record -- March 1991
This report, issued by former Chairman Richard Brodsky and former Environmental Conservation Committee Chairman Maurice Hinchey, details the findings and recommendations of the Committees’ examination of State agencies’ environmental violations and the State Department of Environmental Conservation’s enforcement of environmental laws against State agencies.
The Committee Chairmen initiated the investigation in response to the magnitude of environmental law violations attributed to State agencies, public authorities and public benefit corporations. The violations were listed in DEC’s first annual audit, released in August 1989. The audit, required by Chapter 595 of the Laws of 1988, listed 440 environmental violations at 267 State agency facilities. While most of the agencies’ violations were for failure to obtain or renew permits or registrations, others included raw sewage released into drinking water above a sole source aquifer.
The Abuse of the Prevailing Wage Law -- February 1991
The Oversight and Labor Committees released this report after completing a year-long examination of implementation and enforcement of the State’s prevailing wage law. The Committees’ review was based on complaints about enforcement of the prevailing wage law and included extensive documentation of violations found through on-site field investigations, document reviews and a series of legislative hearings in 1990, at which witnesses from industry, labor and government testified.
An Investigation of the Public Service Commission’s Examination of Wrongdoing in New York Telephone Company’s Transactions with Unregulated NYNEX Subsidiaries -- September 1990
This report charges the Public Service Commission (PSC) with failing to make full use of its investigatory and regulatory tools while considering a NYTEL rate increase request. Committee staff investigated the matter and found strong evidence indicating NYNEX, NYTEL’s sole stockholder, had been using NYTEL as a cash cow. According to credible witnesses, NYNEX had been influencing NYTEL to buy goods and services, such as computers and software, at inflated prices from NYNEX’s unregulated subsidiaries. NYTEL is regulated and NYNEX and its subsidiaries are not. Through this report and letters to PSC Chairman Peter Bradford, former Committee Chairman Richard Brodsky urged the PSC twice in 1990 to further investigate allegations of wrongdoing by NYTEL before granting NYTEL’s requested rate increases.
The PSC did order an investigation of NYTEL’s purchases from NYNEX subsidiaries. After many years of litigation and procedural wrangling, the presiding Administrative Law Judge in 1996 recommended that NYNEX refund $300 million to consumers. In 1997, the PSC ultimately ordered a refund in the amount of $83 million to compensate consumers for NYNEX's inflated prices.
Structural Defects: A Critical Review of the New York State Uniform Fire and Building Code -- January 1989
Released by the Assembly Oversight and Governmental Operations Committees, Structural Defects details numerous problems with the enforcement and oversight of the Uniform Fire and Building Code Act by the Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) and the Department of State (DOS).
The Committees examined DOS and DHCR compliance with a 1981 law establishing a uniform fire and building code for the State. The Code, enacted following the 1980 Stouffer’s Hotel fire in Westchester County that killed 26 people, was intended to better protect the public by establishing minimum safety standards throughout the State. DOS administers the Code and DHCR shares responsibility for ensuring compliance.
Through on-site inspections, interviews and a survey of all State municipalities (except New York City which is exempt), the Committees learned most localities adopted the Code and enforced it themselves, although the majority did not have a full-time employee for this function. Many municipalities engaged private contractors for this duty, and, in some cases, improperly delegated their "public power" function. The Committees’ report made specific recommendations dealing with DHCR and the Code Council, and DOS’s direct enforcement, handling of private contractors, training, financial assistance, oversight and the boards of review. Many of the Committees’ administrative and regulatory recommendations have since been implemented.
Shots in the Dark: An Evaluation of New York’s Target Crime Initiative Program -- September 1989
This report, issued by the Oversight and Codes Committees, is based on an extensive examination of the Target Crime Initiative program (TCI), a comprehensive anti-crime program funded by the State to aid localities for the special handling of serious and/or repeat felony offenders. As of late 1989, the State had spent over $618 million on these programs, including TCI.
Through surveys, site visits, agency files, and interviews with agency and local personnel, staffs of the two Committees found there was nothing very "targeted" about the TCI program in terms of either case type or case management. Localities were, for the most part, free to target any cases, in any manner, they desired. While not the original intent, the TCI program, as implemented, was little more than a mechanism to funnel non-targeted local assistance funding. To refocus the intent of this program, the Committee Chairmen recommended: codification of State-funded criminal justice programs; establishment of meaningful and measurable goals, objectives and priorities applying to each criminal justice component; creation of new reporting systems and steps to eliminate resource gaps; and creation of an intergovernmental working group.
Engineering Decision-Making Within the New York City Transit Authority -- March 1988
The Oversight Committee and the Subcommittee on Mass Transit Finances and Operations of the Committee on Corporations, Authorities & Commissions (then chaired by Assembly member Brian Murtaugh and Catherine T. Nolan, respectively) examined the engineering and management practices of the New York City Transit Authority (NYCTA). The investigation was spurred by allegations that the safety of passengers was in jeopardy because NYCTA hired unlicensed engineers.
Through hearing testimony, documents and correspondence, the Committees concluded that the NYCTA, at the very least, was lax in its placement of professional engineers in its chain of command. In several instances NYCTA advertised a job requiring a professional engineer, but then hired an unlicensed individual. This situation also raised ethical concerns for licensed engineers, who could have potentially been placed under the supervision of unlicensed personnel.
Lost in the Maze: New York State’s Multiply Disabled -- 1988
The Oversight and Mental Health Committees examined the implementation of a 1977 law created to ensure a comprehensive and coordinated approach in serving the needs of the multiply-disabled. The multiply-disabled population includes those in State psychiatric and developmental centers, under treatment by local providers, or on the streets. From 1981 to 1987, the number of multiply-disabled patients with mental illness and substance abuse problems increased nearly 90 percent and the number of patients suffering from alcohol abuse and mental illness increased 45 percent.
The report documents the specific failures of the Inter-Office Coordinating Council and its four constituent State agencies -- the Offices of Mental Health and Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities and the Divisions of Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuses and Substance Abuse Services -- to meet the stated goal of assuring gaps in services to multiply-disabled were eliminated, and traces how the administrative agencies essentially ignored legal mandates. The report’s recommendations were aimed at attaining better management.
Bleak House: Division of Housing and Community Renewal At the Crossroads -- June 1987
This report documents the Oversight and Housing Committees’ examination of the State Division of Housing and Community Renewal’s (DHCR) administration of rent stabilization and rent control laws. When DHCR assumed responsibility for administration of the system in 1983, it inherited a backlog of 104,000 cases, and some statutory changes created an additional backlog.
Numerous complaints from both landlord and tenant organizations indicated that the agency and the system created to handle the regulations were chaotic and that the agency was systematically violating the rent regulatory statutes. The Committees examined actions DHCR took to reduce its backlog, including rent overcharges and major capital improvement requests, the administrative review process, and DHCR resolution of tenant complaints.
Testimony from over 80 witnesses and thousands of pages of documents and correspondence collected throughout the investigation were compiled into this report. The report also contains recommendations for DHCR to improve its service delivery, many of which have been implemented.
PUBLIC HEARING TRANSCRIPTS
Hearings on Fire House Closings - (3/4/04
Statewide Wireless Network -- (5/04) The Oversight Committee joined with the Assembly Committees on Governmental Operations, Local Governments, Ways and Means, Codes and Corporations, Authorities and Commissions to review the process of the Statewide Wireless Network (SWN) procurement. The Office for Technology (OFT) issued a request for proposal on December 12, 2001. The initial cost estimate from OFT was approximately $300-$500 million. On April 30, 2004, OFT announced that a contract was awarded and press reports cited a cost of over $1 billion. Hearings were held to determine whether $1 billion is a reasonable and accurate cost estimate, why the disparity between the initial cost estimate and the reported contract award and when can the State expect to have a fully operational SWN.
Insurance Issues after 9/11/01 -- On May 7, 2004, the Oversight Committee joined with the Insurance Committee to examine insurance problems related to the September 11, 2001 destruction of the World Trade Center. Problems and concerns of New York City small businesses and multiple dwelling owners with insurance problems were heard. This hearing was the latest in a series of hearings over the last three years where businesses and residents were able to express their concerns and frustrations with the process of attempting to get their claims paid. The Committees sought testimony on problems with settling insurance claims, feedback on pending legislation and the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act of 2002.
Quality of Care in Adult Homes -- (5/10/2002 and 6/6/2002)
Charities Hearing -- (11/7/01)
On November 7, 2001, the Assembly held a public hearing in Manhattan to learn about the planned uses and distribution of charitable donations made in response to the attack on the World Trade Center. Oversight Committee Chair Scott Stringer co-chaired the hearing, along with Speaker Sheldon Silver, and the Chairs of the Committees on Governmental Operations, Codes, and Judiciary.
The Speaker and Committee Chairs sought to learn: how much money had been pledged and received; how such contributions are restricted and how they can be used; what needs will be met by Federal and State funds and charitable organizations; what unmet needs continue to exist in the community; to what extent are charities coordinating their efforts; how is eligibility for assistance and the amounts of awards determined; will charitable gifts affect eligibility for State and federal benefits and vice versa; how should any leftover money be used; to what extent have there been fraudulent charitable solicitations related to September 11; and what steps should be taken to protect the public and legitimate charities from abuse.
CONNECTIONS -- (5/12/2000 and 5/23/2000)
Personal Privacy -- (5/12/98)
Foster Care -- (3/3/98, 3/5/98, and 3/18/98)
NY Inaugural ’95 and NY Transition ’95 -- (3/18/96)
Municipal Competitive Bidding Hearings -- (10/31/95 and
Thruway Authority Hazardous Waste Site -- (10/2/92)
Beer Industry -- (2/7/91)
Art Market Practices -- (1/30/91)
Prevailing Wage Legislation -- (2/28/91, 3/1/91,
New York State’s Beer Industry -- (5/30/90)
New York Racing Association -- (3/23/90)
State Agency Environmental Audit -- (3/2/90 and 3/7/90)
Prevailing Wage -- (1/18/90; 1/24/90)
Proprietary School Roundtable -- (9/7/89)
Cable Television -- (4/19/89)
Proprietary Schools -- (3/2/89)
New York City Transit Authority -- (8/11/87)
Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) --
(3/6/87 and 3/13/87)