From the NY Times:
After years of debate and a string of corruption scandals, state officials moved on Friday to impose sweeping new oversight provisions on the state’s hundreds of public authorities, which have long functioned as a virtual shadow government largely immune to public accountability.
The law, passed by the Legislature this month and signed by Gov. David A. Paterson on Friday, was hailed by government watchdog groups as one of the most significant reforms in decades. It was one of the few such efforts led chiefly by the Legislature, long a place where bills intended to promote greater government accountability go to wither and die.
Public authorities have been a powerful yet inscrutable force in New York for decades, charged with running the state’s highways and mass transit systems, spearheading economic development and managing power plants. They range from the sprawling Metropolitan Transportation Authority to the small Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Authority.
“Today, we return to the control of the people of the state their most powerful institutions,” said Assemblyman Richard L. Brodsky, a Westchester Democrat, who was a chief sponsor of the new legislation. “If you go to school in New York City, you use the School Construction Authority. If you go to a hospital, you use the Health and Hospitals Corporation. The subways. The buses. The lives of New Yorkers are impacted by the operations of state authorities to an infinitely greater extent than they are by the departments of state government.”
For the first time, board members of those authorities will have a legal obligation, known as a fiduciary duty, to protect the interests and mission of the authorities they supervise, rather than being beholden to the mayors, governors and legislative leaders who appoint them. The new law will require authorities to seek approval from the state comptroller for most contracts of over $1 million that are not competitively bid.