Oversight, Analysis and Investigation
James F. Brennan - Chairman
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THE NEW YORK STATE ASSEMBLY
COMMITTEE ON OVERSIGHT, ANALYSIS
James F. Brennan, Chairman
THE 2005 ANNUAL REPORT
The Honorable Sheldon Silver
Dear Speaker Silver:
It is with great pride that I present the 2005 Annual Report of the Assembly Standing Committee on Oversight, Analysis and Investigation. Contained within this report are summaries of the Committee's major projects during 2005, as well as previous project reviews and planned future activities.
In a time where effective legislative oversight is crucial to an efficient and responsible government, the Oversight Committee acts as the "eyes and ears" of New York's citizens. The Oversight Committee ensures that New York's laws are being followed consistent with legislative intent, while analyzing and investigating whether State agencies are operating efficiently and responsibly.
In addition to Oversight Committee projects continued from previous years, 2005 Committee activities included:
I have been honored to lead this Committee as it fulfilled its mandate to strengthen the accountability and efficiency of New York State while protecting our citizens.
Table of Contents
Appendix A: Committee Reports
Appendix B: Public Hearings
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 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:
The Committee's oversight actions help to ensure government institutions live up to their statutory requirements. Additionally, the Committee may examine 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 2005, the Committee was involved in a number of diverse projects, some of which had begun in earlier years. Investigations were sparked by recent events, the interests of the new 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.
In February 2005 a major data base company, Choicepoint, had been hacked into by computer information thieves. Private, personal information on 140,000 persons was stolen. In the past year, millions of Americans have had private information stolen from computer data bases. However, no law protected New Yorkers by compelling companies to notify persons rapidly if this information is acquired by unauthorized persons.
Over 200,000 New Yorkers now know that they have been exposed to identity theft because of a new law sponsored by the Chair of the Oversight Committee, Assemblymember James Brennan. The new law, the Information Security Breach and Notification Act, took effect on December 7, 2005. Until then, companies that suffered computer break-ins were not required to notify people when customer information was stolen. The new law requires companies to contact people when their private information like Social Security, driver's license, or credit card numbers are exposed.
This new law should lead companies to be more responsible with their information. It also alerts New York residents to monitor their accounts in order to take immediate steps to safeguard themselves from becoming a victim of identity theft. Additionally, to further protect consumers, this law requires public and private organizations to notify customers when their private information has been breached.
Highlights of the Information Breach and Notification Act, Chapter 442 of the Laws of 2005 include:
The Oversight Committee has spent years investigating and uncovering serious problems with procurement practices in New York State. Efforts to improve, recommend and create effective new laws addressing this important and crucial portion of the State's economy were continued in 2005. Procurement legislation was developed and incorporated into landmark budget reform.
Chairman Brennan's A.4256 would enhance the information detailed in the budget regarding state contracts, particularly relating to information technology. Oftentimes, it is very difficult to identify in budget documents a clear picture of what the Governor proposes to spend on major information technology contracts - which often run into the hundreds of millions of dollars. Key to the Legislature's decision-making process is not only how much an obligation will cost the State today, but what will be the entire cost to the State when fully implemented. For the Legislature, the decision to appropriate monies in the first instance should be based on a complete understanding of the fiscal commitment over the anticipated life of the project.
A.4256 became a part of the Assembly's Budget Reform Package (A.1). This legislation would amend the state Constitution and other state laws to bring about a more efficient, transparent, accountable and timely state budget process. This budget reform package passed both houses of the Legislature.
Governor Pataki vetoed this legislation. While the Legislature overrode the Governor's veto, the constitutional amendment upon which this law was predicated was voted down by the voters on Election Day.
In 2005, the New York State Assembly and Senate passed A4257A/S5108A. This legislation, "Reporting Requirement Reform Act" was signed by the Governor on August 16, 2005 and became Chapter 524 of the Laws of 2005.
The Legislature often enacts laws which impose reporting requirements on state agencies. These reports can be effective tools for monitoring state agency operations. This new law provides mandate relief by streamlining and tightening state agency reporting requirements, eliminating or changing the frequency of many reports that are no longer needed, and consolidating those that are needed. In a nod to the 21st Century and a changing technological environment, state agencies can now submit reports and other government documents to the Legislature online. This bill would also make the Legislative Library a repository for all documents required by statute to be submitted to the Legislature.
The "Reporting Requirement Reform Act" arose from an Oversight Committee project begun several years ago to survey state agencies on their distribution policies for statutorily required reports issued to the "legislature". The Oversight Committee conducted a telephone survey of twenty-three state agencies seeking information about their agency's distribution policies for statutorily required reports issued to the "legislature."
The results of the survey indicated that there was no consistent policy for handling distribution of reports to the "legislature". How an agency interpreted the "legislature" varied among state agencies. To address this finding, the law provides how reports should be transmitted to the Legislature and the State and Legislative Libraries. Additionally, the new law takes a comprehensive approach to agencies' reporting requirements. It provides mandate relief by streamlining and tightening certain reporting requirements, and eliminating or changing the frequency of others.
As part of the Legislature's ongoing oversight mission to monitor state agency operations, information about vital programs is often required to be reported by agencies to the Legislature pursuant to statute. The Oversight Committee, assisted by the Legislative Bill Drafting Commission, developed customized charts which identify reports that are required by statute, along with the reports' subject, frequency, recipient and due date. The first round of these charts was provided to Committee Chairs in December of 2005. It is anticipated that updates will be continued during the 2006 session. Providing Committee Chairs with a customized list of statutory reports in their particular subject areas will further facilitate their oversight responsibilities: to make sure the reports were issued and that such reports provide the information required under the law.
The Oversight, Analysis and Investigation Committee scheduled hearings throughout New York State to gather information, hear testimony and seek solutions to many of the challenges facing our state. Hearings in 2005 were held to seek public input on the following topics:
GOVERNOR'S PROPOSED INDIAN LAND CLAIM, CASINO AND TAX AGREEMENTS
In February 2005, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver called for public hearings on legislation which Governor Pataki had proposed to settle Indian land claims in New York State and to expand to five the number of gambling casinos authorized for the Catskills. (A5159-A).
The Assembly hearings were jointly chaired by Committee Chairpersons Jim Brennan (Oversight), Helene Weinstein (Judiciary), Joseph Morelle (Tourism, Arts and Sports Development), and J. Gary Pretlow (Racing and Wagering).
The proposal was both complex and controversial. Since each Indian land claims case is unique, some appeared to have more merit than others. Each Indian tribe was partnered with a big corporation, some of whom were more willing than others to share information about their financial arrangements. There were also disturbing conflicts-of-interest between the Governor, some of his political allies and friends, and certain Indian tribes and their corporate partners.
The Committees conducted four days of hearings in March and April in Syracuse, Albany and Monticello.
The hearings examined the legal, governmental, economic and environmental implications of the proposed settlement agreements with the Akwesasne Mohawks, the Stockbridge-Munsee Community Band of Mohican Indians, the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin, the Cayuga Indian Nation of New York and the Seneca-Cayuga Tribe of Oklahoma. The hearings were open, public forums for comments from local government officials and representatives of Indian nations, businesses and communities across the state. The information gathered helped to determine whether the Legislature would ratify the agreements. Testimony was received on various aspects of the settlement agreements.
On April 15, the Governor withdrew his proposed legislation for five casinos. On June 16, the Governor proposed a new bill to settle only Mohawk land claims and involving only one casino for the Mohawks. This proposal, with the Mohawk Indian Nation, was a settlement of an authentic land claim with proper regulatory safeguards. The Assembly passed the bill on June 21 and sent it to the Senate. (A.8900). The Senate did not pass the bill.
In 2001, the Giuliani Administration began construction of a large, modern firehouse in the Rossville area of Staten Island. The rationale for the new firehouse was the increasing population and need for Fire Department of New York (FDNY) services in the area. The Rossville firehouse would house the first new engine company placed in Staten Island in 30 years. Construction on the firehouse cost about $10.4 million and was completed in 2003. However, as of April, 2005 the Bloomberg Administration was refusing to place an engine company in the new firehouse, citing cost reasons.
At the request of Assemblymember Michael Cusick (Staten Island), Oversight Chair Brennan and Codes Committee Chair Joseph Lentol initiated an investigation of the adequacy of FDNY services on Staten Island. The Chairs requested FDNY to supply the Committees with detailed data on FDNY response times in the Rossville area. The Chairs also scheduled a hearing for May 13, and requested the appearance of the Fire Commissioner.
The day before the hearing, the Chairs postponed the hearing at the request of FDNY, which had not yet supplied the response time data.
On May 15, the press reported Bloomberg Administration officials saying that the Mayor now agreed to place an engine company in the Rossville firehouse within two weeks. The press also reported that average FDNY response times in the Rossville area were seven minutes, 10 seconds, well above the citywide average of 4:54. The 7:10 Rossville response time was also considerably higher than what the FDNY had described as acceptable for safety during 2004 Assembly hearings.
The Rossville firehouse now has an engine company.
In 1995, the Procurement Stewardship Act (State Finance Law, Article 11) was enacted in order to consolidate, codify and update the procurement laws of New York State. Recognizing that the law would need to be periodically reevaluated, the Legislature enacted an original sunset date of 2000 for the law. Following legislative oversight and review, it was renewed for an additional five years. This year, a one-year extender was enacted in the budget, providing additional time for a reevaluation of New York State's procurement law. When the Stewardship Act was renewed in 2000, a number of significant changes were made to the State Finance Law.
In order to review the effectiveness of the Procurement Stewardship Act, public hearings were held in Albany on September 27, 2005. Sponsoring the hearing were Oversight Committee Chair Brennan, Governmental Operations Chair Destito, Local Governments Chair Sweeney, Small Business Chair Weprin, Environmental Conservation Subcommittee on Oversight Chair Bradley and Government Administration Chair Millman.
The Office of General Services has been the Administration's 'expert' on procurement. While OGS goes through the major procurement process with a particular vendor, other state agencies as well as other eligible entities are allowed to purchase off of these contracts. Eligible entities include local governments, schools and not-for-profit organizations. It expands the State's purchasing power. By increasing the number of entities purchasing items and in turn, increasing the potential number of items purchased, the State is in a better negotiating position to get volume discounts built into the contract price. It saves other state agencies and eligible parties some of the time and effort they would otherwise have to spend in the procurement process.
As the central agent, OGS should be in a position to monitor the State's experience and use this information when negotiating future contracts with these and other vendors for a similar service. Assembly bill 7575 strengthens the oversight and monitoring efforts by ensuring purchases from centralized contracts are tracked. This, in turn, should better ensure the State gets the best price through more accurate volume discounts.
A series of newspaper articles by The New York Times in July of '05 revealed serious fraud and abuse of New York's Medicaid system. That prompted an Assembly inquiry into the issue.
On September 19, 2005, the Assembly Health, Codes, Judiciary and Oversight Committees held a hearing on this subject.
Key issues examined by the Committees were:
Following the hearings, the Members requested detailed follow-up information from the Departments of Health and Law. It was not until November that the Committees received requested information from the Attorney General's office and not until December 19 that the first of promised information was received from the Department of Health.
The Committees continue to gather information and review the requested information. The Committees will be continuing their investigation of the issues in preparation for the 2006 Budget and Session.
In February 2005, the Chairs of the Oversight and Health Committees met with Department of Health (DOH) representatives to discuss reasons for the delays in funding for durable medical equipment (DME). The Chairs were assured that DOH was working to resolve the delays. However, significant problems and possible violations of DOH regulations remained.
For that reason, the Assembly scheduled public hearings in an effort to gather more information from the people who suffer because of this problem. The Assembly Committee on Oversight, Analysis and Investigation, the Health Committee and the Task Force on People with Disabilities held two public hearings to investigate the reasons for delays in funding durable medical equipment for people with severe disabilities; one on July 19, 2005 in New York City, and the second hearing was held on November 15, 2005 in Albany.
Medicaid funding of DME requires prior approval by the state Department of Health. The DOH Regional Medicaid Office in New York City, which handled all of the funding requests for New York City and Long Island, was closed in November 2004, with little public notice. Operations were moved to Albany.
DOH admits it did not prepare its staff for this change. As a result, a large backlog of funding requests was amassed. State regulations require that DOH issue a ruling on a request within 21 days. Indications were that DOH had rejected a large volume of applications, and frequently required additional and often unnecessary information in order to stop the 21-day clock by simply asking for more information.
Children and others with severe disabilities faced extraordinary delays in getting Medicaid approval for repairs or replacements for new, worn out or broken wheelchairs. The delays often made it impossible for people to leave their homes and in some cases, caused prolonged pain and damage to their health.
Throughout the fall of 2005, Oversight staff continued to monitor the work of a DOH DME Workgroup, created to improve and clarify procedures, develop better communications between providers, vendors, clients and DOH and to ensure that the most vulnerable individuals receive the help and attention they so desperately require. The DME workgroup is helping establish emergency procedures, but its most important tasks, developing guidelines and streamlining the prior approval process, remain incomplete. Hopefully, the Department of Health will consult with the DME Workgroup to develop more responsive DME rules.
Oversight staff is currently reviewing all of the received testimonies and will continue to explore possible solutions. It is likely that the Committee's findings will be included in a Report to be released during the 2006 Legislative Session.
The Oversight Committee and the Assembly Chair of the Administrative Regulations Review Commission examined state agency compliance with the Subject Matter List provision of the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL). The purpose of this study was to evaluate agency compliance with the statutory and regulatory requirements that each state agency maintain a reasonably detailed and current subject matter list of records in its possession.
Assemblymember Jim Brennan, Chair of the New York State Assembly's Oversight, Analysis and Investigation Committee, and Assemblyman Ruben Diaz, Jr., Assembly Chair of the New York State Assembly's Administrative Regulations Review Commission released a report in August 2005 on this issue. The report exposed state agencies' failures to meet legal minimum standards regarding the Freedom of Information Law's requirement that a FOIL subject matter list must be available to the general public.
Needle in a Haystack examined state agency compliance with FOIL's requirement that an agency maintain a reasonably detailed current list by subject matter of all records in the possession of the agency. Such a list helps those interested in requesting records by identifying what kinds of records are maintained by an agency. This subject matter list serves the same purpose as a store directory in a supermarket. Shoppers don't walk in expecting to see a sign telling them where to find the Macintosh apples or the chicken noodle soup, but shoppers do expect a sign directing them to the produce section or the soup aisle, making it easier to locate the products they want. In the same vein, the Department of Motor Vehicles is not expected to list every record concerning every licensed repair shop, but it does help to know that DMV subject matter lists include entries for the "business address" for the repair shops it regulates.
The most basic of FOIL's requirements regarding subject matter lists is that each agency must have one. Unfortunately, some agencies do not comply with even this basic requirement.
Broad noncompliance was found with other requirements for lists. In a sample taken in 2001-2002, 75% of State agencies did not comply with the subject matter list rules that agencies are to maintain a list that is both "reasonably detailed" and "current." Agency noncompliance included outdated lists, undated lists, lists with little detail, and even an outright failure to maintain any list.
Agencies were contacted again in 2004. They were asked to send the most recent update of their subject matter lists. Unfortunately, there was little improvement with 72% of State agencies not complying with the subject matter list rules.
Although many agencies appear to be making good faith attempts to put together some kind of subject matter list, the most apparent problems in this area are the lack of effective monitoring, accountability and practical guidance.
To that end, legislation to provide general guidance to state agencies on how to develop and maintain a current and reasonably detailed subject matter list of records is in the works. Legislation to require every state agency to post its subject matter list on its website, to post information related to the Freedom of Information Law, and to include a link to the Committee on Open Government's website to acquaint the public with general information about the FOIL process is also being developed.
Regrettably, changing statutory language is probably not enough to ensure that an agency maintains an adequate list, or even maintains any kind of list at all. The most apparent problem is the lack of effective monitoring and accountability. It is unacceptable to allow agencies to choose whether or not they want to comply with any law. Even more troubling, when the public is demanding more accountability from government, agencies choose to ignore a basic requirement to provide open access to government records. Until state agency managers understand and embrace the public's desire for open and accountable government, continued oversight and whistle blowing by legislative and outside organizations will be needed.
Heeding the call to "reform" government, the Oversight Committee is committed to ensuring that laws currently in place which allow citizens access to government information are complied with, enforced and improved.
Childhood obesity is a serious health epidemic. Major health problems are primarily due to lack of physical activity and poor nutrition. Today, there are nearly twice as many overweight children and almost three times as many overweight adolescents as in 1980. Physical fitness and sports activities are so important to building a healthy student population and a healthy and productive society.
A 2003 Oversight Committee report, No Room in the Playground, revealed that outdoor recreational space was often unavailable to school children in New York City, an important factor when trying to encourage children to have an active and healthy lifestyle.
The President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports designated the month of May 2005 as Physical Fitness and Sports month for the entire nation. In response and support of the country's observance of fitness and sports activities, Chair Brennan and Senator Padavan introduced a resolution in the Assembly and Senate calling on the Governor to proclaim May 2005 as Physical Fitness and Sports Month in New York State.
The resolution, citing the importance of daily physical activity and good nutrition, urges all New Yorkers - with special attention to children - to focus on the observance of this national effort. The resolution also urges the NYS Board of Regents to encourage schools across the state to reinvigorate their physical fitness programs so that our young people will learn to develop habits of physically fit lifestyles and healthy living.
At a pre-game ceremony on May 25, 2005 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, Senator Padavan and Assemblymember Brennan presented the resolution to the New York Yankees Team Captain, Derek Jeter. On May 26, 2005, retired NY Knicks Basketball Champion, John Starks joined with Assemblymember Brennan and Principal Larry Woodbridge at the Secondary School for Law in Brooklyn and spoke to an 8th grade gym class about the importance of participating in physical activity throughout their life.
"The Public Eye", first released in 2003, is a series of updates intended to keep the public informed of Oversight Committee investigations. Through its monitoring and investigative activities, the Committee seeks to determine whether programs are operating as required and whether allocated funds are spent in accordance with legislative intent. Two Public Eyes were released in 2005 and those summaries follow.
PUBLIC EYE #9 (May 2005) Options for Financing New York City School Buildings
In May 2005, Committee Chair Jim Brennan published a Public Eye explaining options for financing New York City school construction. The widely-disseminated paper was intended to invite discussion on possible funding sources for building new schools and fixing existing ones.
For far too long, many of New York City's 1,100 schools have been overcrowded and in poor condition. In fact, the State Supreme Court agreed with petitioners that New York City schools are deficient and need more funding to meet the State's Constitutional right to a sound basic education.
While both the State and City are contributing more money towards fixing New York City schools and building new ones than they had in the past, the Public Eye noted that more must be done now so that all students have the space and tools they need to learn.
In 2004, the City issued a $13 billion, 5-year capital plan, although some estimated the need was more than double that amount. The plan included building 97 new schools by 2009 and fixing many of the serious problems plaguing schools. The City's plan presumed the State would contribute half of the money. However, despite Assembly efforts to greatly increase aid to New York City in 2004-05, the State Senate and Governor would not agree. The Assembly managed to push through significant changes in State school building aid the following year (2005-06), which would enable the City to leverage more State aid for school buildings, but this was still not enough.
The Public Eye discussed New York City's debt limit, New York State building aid changes, and possible funding options, including: increasing State funding by: 1) using video lottery terminal (VLT) funds to leverage capital funding; 2) providing State grants for school construction; 3) making more building aid changes to drive more funds to New York City; and, 4) holding another state bond referendum. Other options discussed included increasing City funding or the City's debt limit (or the debt limit of the City's Transitional Finance Authority), as well as the possibility of giving all large city districts fiscal independence from their cities and the possibility of securitizing State building aid for New York City.
The paper noted that a political stalemate between the Assembly and the Governor and Senate would have to be broken to drive any State funding increases to the City for school construction.
In the 2006-2007 State budget, the Assembly was successful in its effort to drive increased school construction funds to New York City and a variety of the options mentioned in the Public Eye were adopted, including:
PUBLIC EYE #10 (December 2005) Brennan Law Fights Identity Theft
In December 2005, Public Eye #10 was issued to inform New Yorkers of a new law Chair Brennan had sponsored that, through its enactment, enabled over 200,000 New Yorkers to learn they had been exposed to identity theft. The new law, the Information Security Breach and Notification Act, took effect on December 7, 2005.
Until then, companies that suffered computer break-ins were not required to notify people when customer information was stolen. The new law now requires companies to contact people when their private information like Social Security, driver's license, or credit card numbers are exposed.
The Oversight Committee was active in pursuing companies that suffered serious breaches but did not initially notify customers. One of these was the large data broker Choicepoint. Brennan called for an immediate halt to state contracts with Choicepoint after it was revealed that over 125,000 people, 9,000 of them New Yorkers, were the victims of a security breach at Choicepoint. Over the course of several months, Brennan tracked other notable cases and the results were startling. In just the first six months of 2005, over six million people were exposed to identity theft nationwide due to security breaches at large information brokers or financial institutions.
The new law:
The bill was supported by the Consumer's Union, The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse and the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG). All saw it as a great first step in preventing identity theft, and it was hailed by both local and international news groups.
If proposals are presented during 2006, Oversight will continue to play a role, if needed. Oversight will continue its joint involvement with the Assembly Committees on Judiciary, Tourism and Racing and Wagering in considering legislation, budget initiatives, and continuing any investigative work.
Oversight will continue joint work with Assembly Committees on Health, Codes and Judiciary in examining state activities related to Medicaid Fraud. Oversight will help develop and pursue passage of a legislative and budget package ensuring fiscally responsible accountability.
Oversight will continue joint work with the Assembly Committee on Health and the Task Force on People with Disabilities. Oversight will also finalize and issue the Committees' report on DME hearings. A legislative package to address the problems identified in the report will be developed.
After the release of Needle in a Haystack in 2005, Oversight will pursue passage of legislative remedies recommended in the report.
Oversight will continue to be involved in the oversight of state agency procurement practices. Procurement provisions were incorporated in the Assembly's budget reform package and were included in the final versions passed by both houses in 2004 and 2005. The Governor vetoed this reform legislation and while both houses overrode, the voters rejected the accompanying constitutional amendment needed for its implementation.
NEEDLE IN A HAYSTACK - August 2005 (Click here for more information)
UNCHARTERED WATERS: A Study of Compliance with New York laws governing water supply emergency planning - February 2004
This report was issued after a year-long review by Committee staff on the efforts of water suppliers to comply with Chapter 405 of the Laws of 2002. This law requires water suppliers statewide to update their emergency plans to include an analysis of the threat of terrorism.
SHOPPING FOR ASTHMA DRUGS: A SURVEY OF PRICES IN NEW YORK CITY - August 2004
This report was issued after Oversight staff visited 148 pharmacies in New York City to find the average "market basket" price of ten asthma drugs. Only 66% of the pharmacies complied with the Drug Price List Law.
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. 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 report detailed the Office for Technology's (OFT) failure to release a statutorily required computer inventory and its use of outdated software and standards puts 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 the 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. Temporary Classroom Units (TCUs), used to alleviate overcrowded classrooms, often take up a school's entire playground area and in some instances, remain for as long as eight years. The report recommended that the State Education Department step up its current authority over playground sites, maintain current data, annually review placement of TCUs 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 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. The report also presents administrative, budget, and legislative recommendations. It is hoped that these recommendations will help get the project back on track, strengthen legislative oversight of the project and related costs, and ensure 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.
In 1999, A7371/S5318 which put these provisions in place, was passed by the Assembly and the Senate, but vetoed by the Governor. (veto memo.16)
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 (Chapter 176, Laws of 1993) 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), 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, other 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 detail 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 package 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 Committee 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.
Hearings on Governor's Proposed Indian Land Claim, Casino and Tax Agreements.
Hearing on Staten Island Firehouse
Examination of the Procurement Stewardship Act and Procurement Issues
Medicaid Fraud Hearings
Durable Medical Equipment (DME) Hearings
Hearings on Fire House Closings - (3/4/04 and 4/30/04)
Statewide Wireless Network -- (5/04)
There were no public hearings in 2003.
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 2/27/96)
Thruway Authority (TA) 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, 3/12/91, 3/14/91)
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)
New York State Assembly
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