Public Authorities play a major role in delivering public services in the United States. They supplement more traditional government agencies by: providing a corporate organizational structure, legally separate from government, for the provision of public services financed by user fees and whose capital investments are self-financed through tax exempt bonds; and managing capital assets and making long term capital investment decisions with some isolation from political influence and the electoral cycle.

Public Authorities affect people in countless ways. They maintain bridges and highways, run mass transit systems, build and manage low income housing, financing higher education, and provide medical care. There are more than 35,000 state and local public authorities and special districts in the United States responsible for more than 65% of the states’ aggregate indebtedness. The Federal government and other nations have enthusiastically followed suit and adopted the public authority model.

Public Authorities are now the fastest growing component of the public sector, and with their growth, questions have been raised concerning their power to incur debt, the transparency of their operations, and their political autonomy. Much has been written, many reforms proposed, and volumes of data has been generated and analyzed. The Public Authority Information Clearinghouse is intended to assemble and categorize, on an on-going basis, the available information, and in certain instances, provide commentary.

New and Notable

Check out the new Public Authorities Blog, which is part of the Public Authorities Project of the Government Law Center at Albany Law School. The goal of the blog is to provide up-to-date news and analysis concerning the laws, practices, and proposed reforms relating to state and local public authorities in New York,

Video: Public Authorities and Municipalities: The Implications of the Dodd-Frank Act on Authorities’ Fiscal Operations (4/15/11)

On April 15, 2011, the Government Law Center assembled a panel of experts, including a representative of the Securities and Exchange Commission, to discuss the implications of Dodd-Frank, and current budget challenges, on municipal securities issuers. The program discussed the new registration requirement for municipal advisors (and related rule-making activities) and disclosure requirements associated with the current fiscal crisis, including those involving post-employment benefit obligations.

Panelists included:

  • Martha Mahan Haines, Chief, Office of Municipal Securities, and Assistant Director, Division of Trading and Markets, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)
  • Malcolm Northum, Director, Fixed Income Securities Group, Sales Practice Policy Division, Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA)
  • Karen De Brul, Associate General Counsel, Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board
  • Kenneth Roberts, Partner, Hawkins Delafield & Wood LLP
  • Lauren Trialonas, Public Finance Department, Squire, Sanders & Dempsey (US) LLP

Associate Dean Patricia Salkin and Professor Christine Chung gave remarks prior to the panel, which was moderated by Scott Fein, a partner at Whiteman Osterman & Hanna and chair of the GLC’s Public Authorities Project.

To watch the video, click here.


The Fall, 2009 issue of the NYSBA Government Law and Policy Journal was devoted to the topic of public authority reform, and was guest edited by Public Authorities Project director Scott Fein.

Download the entire journal here, or select from the individual articles below.

Jonathan D. Rosenbloom, Is the Private Sector Really a Model of Efficiency and Independence? Re-evaluating the Use of Public Authorities During Recessionary Times

Lynn Wilson and Clayton Eichelberger, New York State Public Authority Reform: Where Have We Come From and Where We Need to Go

Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, The Public Authorities Reform Act of 2009: Bringing Transparency, Accountability, and a System of Checks and Balances to New York’s Shadow Governments

Charles Brecher, What Happened to Authority Reform?

Scott Fein, Public Authority Controversies: Root Causes and Lessons Learned

Judson Vickers, Interpreting the Public Authorities Accountability Act of 2005

George Weissman, History of Conduit Financing

Dennis C. Smith, Are New York State’s Public Authorities Performing Well? Who Knows?

Kim Fine, Oversight of Public Authority Contracts by the State Comptroller

Kenneth W. Bond, Conduit Financing: A Primer and Look Around the Corner

Amy Lavine, Getting Past the Prisoners’ Dilemma: Transparency and Accountability Reforms to Improve New York’s Industrial Development Agencies

Janis Fallon, How Public Authorities Have Complied with the Public Authorities Accountability Act of 2005 (PAAA)

Karl J. Sleight and Joan P. Sullivan, Ethics Laws and the Public Authorities of New York State

Scott Fein, The Public Authorities Reform Act (PARA) of 2009 (pending enactment)


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