ALBANY -- Some state lawmakers last year were able to supplement their legislative pay with lucrative private jobs, new disclosure reports show.
The details, required to be released annually by a 2011 law, comes amid ongoing scrutiny of legislators' outside income, which were at the heart of several major corruption cases in recent years.
Good-government groups pressured the state Legislature this year to cap outside income, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo backed a limit, as well. But the measure didn't get passed before the 213-seat Legislature recessed for the year last month.
"They don’t want to change the rules of the game that they win by," Blair Horner, legislative director of the New York Public Interest Research Group, said of lawmakers.
Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, was convicted last year of pocketing more than $4 million from two private law firms in exchange for him using his influence at the Capitol.
Former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, R-Nassau County, also had outside income from a Long Island law firm, and he was convicted of pressuring companies to hire his son.
Six senators earned at least $100,000 in outside income in 2015, the recent filings from the state's Joint Commission on Public Ethics showed. Thirty-three senators didn't earn any outside income last year, the Associated Press reported.
The filings require lawmakers to disclose a range of their outside income.
Senate Leader John Flanagan, R-Suffolk County, got between $100,000 to $150,000 from a Long Island law firm. He left the firm soon after he took over for Skelos last year.
Retiring Sen. Michael Nozzolio, R-Fayette, Seneca County, continued his employment at the Monroe County-based Harris Beach law firm. He earned between $150,000 to $250,000 from his "of counsel and senior advisor" position at the powerful firm.
In his disclosure form, Nozzolio offered a two-page explanation of his work for the firm. He has regularly insisted there are no conflicts between his dual roles.
"I work in an executive capacity with the firm's management committee to develop and advance the firm's strategic goals," he wrote. "One of my major responsibilities is the recruitment of quality attorneys to Harris Beach."
Sen. Marc Panepinto, a Buffalo Democrat who is leaving office at year's end, reported $150,000 and $250,000 last year in income from his law firm, plus profits between $650,000 and $750,000.
Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer, R-Amherst, Erie County, was paid between $100,000 and $150,000 at his law firm.
Sen. Thomas O'Mara, R-Big Flats, Chemung County, received between $75,000 to $100,000 through his law firm, the records showed.
Lawmakers receive a base pay of $79,500, and they can get between $9,000 and $41,000 for leadership posts.
They haven't had a raise since 1999, but a compensation committee plans by year's end to recommend a salary increase for the Legislature.
The Democratic-controlled Assembly in March passed a bill that would have capped legislators' outside income to about $70,000 a year -- or no more than 40 percent of the annual salary of a state Supreme Court judge.
But the Republican-led Senate has not backed a outside-income limit.
Assemblyman Steve Hawley, R-Batavia, earned between $350,000 to $450,000 last year from the local insurance company he owns, records showed. He said it's important that the Legislature allow for outside income.
"This country was founded on citizen legislators stepping forward from their real-life occupations and helping their neighbors," Hawley said. "I’m very happy and proud to be a citizen legislator."
Some Rochester-area lawmakers who showed private incomes included $20,000 to $50,000 earned by Assemblyman Bill Nojay, R-Pittsford, Monroe County, for his radio show and $75,000 to $100,000 for legal representation for a agribusiness, Commodity Resource Corp.
He said neither job presents a conflict with his legislative duties.
Assemblyman Majority Leader Joseph Morelle, D-Irondequoit, Monroe County, said it is important to find a line between lawmakers' earning outside income and using their public office for private gain.
His filings showed an private business venture with his family that bought and renovated a private home. It showed a $75,000 to $100,000 debt for the purchase; he said the house has since been sold.
"We’re trying to strike a balance that still allows some outside income and allows people who are citizens to participate in the process, but not allow them to use their public notoriety to make large sums of money," he said.
In the Assembly, two Western New York lawmakers who are also attorneys reported making money. Andy Goodell reports making $20,000 to $50,000 in legal fees and rental income as an attorney. Attorney Ray Walter reports the same outside income.
David DiPietro made between $20,000 and $50,000 last year by managing Amherst Cleaning.
Members of the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York, an Albany-based non-profit, are concerned about legislators who are practicing attorneys.
"Many of those attorneys are suing our businesses, our economic drivers, and that's a real problem and it's the biggest problem when they're suing us. When they're suing us, the government, our taxpayer dollars are at risk," says LRANY Executive Director Tom Stebbins.
Stebbins points to the corruption cases and convictions of Silver and Skelos as reasons for needing reform.