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NY Bill Addresses "Anonymous Influencers"

By Dave Lucas

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/wamc/local-wamc-971260.mp3

Albany, NY – There's a bill proposed in Albany that would take away the anonymity of individuals or groups seeking to influence school budget votes in New York State. Capital District Bureau Chief Dave Lucas has more.

The legislation, sponsored in both houses, would require anyone spending more than $1,000 to reveal their identities. The measure essentially would curb anonymous mail campaigns and so-called "robo-call" attacks on school budgets.

Democratic Buffalo-area Assemblyman Sam Hoyt says the issue revolves around accountability and disclosure.

Hoyt says the measure is not targeted at any one group. He warns that there will likely be an increased amount of activity with regard to attempting to influence school budget votes, if a tax cap law is put into place this legislative session.

The bill's co-sponsor, Long Island Republican Senator Ken LaValle, notes tough fiscal times have helped set the stage for this type of legislation.

In the recent Albany School budget vote, a pro-charter school organization, later identified as having connections with the Brighter Choice Foundation, conducted mailings and made calls without identifying itself. Officials with the Foundation were not available for comment.

New York State United Teachers spokesman Karl Korn says the union welcomes transparency.

The lawmakers say the typical low turnout at school budget votes mean the outcome can easily be swayed by a few votes in either direction.