IE 11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

Cyber Attack Shutters New York State Bill Office

As suspected Wednesday, bad actors are to blame for taking computers in the state’s Bill Drafting Commission offline. The incident is further delaying production of the already-late state budget.

The New York State Capitol building in Albany, New York
The New York State Capitol building in Albany, New York. In New York, lawmakers gave themselves a 29% raise to $142,000 annually as of January.
(Matthew Cavanaugh/Getty Images/TNS)
(TNS) — Right as some of the bills that make up the state budget were being put together for lawmakers to look at, a cyber attack shut down the office responsible for publishing the legislation.

It's a speedbump in what has been a long budget season in the Capitol, with the state spending plan delayed for two weeks now while lawmakers debate key issues.

A spokesperson for the state Senate Democratic majority confirmed that the computers in the Bill Drafting Commission were shut down due to a cyber attack Wednesday.

"The bill drafting system has been down since early this morning," said communications director Mike Murphy. "They are working to correct the issue as soon as possible. They can still process work for the houses and we don't believe this will delay the overall process."

Speaking with WNYC's Brian Lehrer on Wednesday morning, Gov. Kathleen C. Hochul said the situation came up this morning, and the drafting commission has shifted its workload to an older system.

"We have to go back to the more antiquated system that we had in place from 1994," Hochul said.

When asked for clarification, her spokesperson declined to comment further, citing an "ongoing investigation." It's not clear if the commission reverted to an older computer system, and by the end of Wednesday the office was still apparently out of commission.

At a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Senate Minority Leader Robert G. Ortt, R-North Tonawanda, said he hadn't been formally briefed on the situation, but conversations with senior staff seemed to indicate that the hack was causing delays.

He said there are many different kinds of problems that could be qualified as "cyber attacks," and said its likely that the leadership doesn't want to share too many details on what happened to avoid empowering the people responsible, should it be a directed attack.

"You don't want to alert, because sometimes the bad guys don't even know exactly what might have happened," he said.

The state legislative process no longer requires that lawmakers have physical, printed copies of the bills they are voting on. The drafting commission nowadays is responsible for putting legislative text into a computerized system that publishes the bills virtually, making them available for lawmakers and the general public.

Officials familiar with the situation said they may revert to the physical printing process to get at least some of the budget bills published. While some aspects of the state budget are still being negotiated, the commission was publishing the finished, uncontested bills. State law requires most legislation be published for at least three days before it can be voted on, although in the past the budget bills have received a "message of necessity," from the governor that allows for an immediate vote.

It is unclear when the completed budget bills will be made public, or when the state legislature will vote on them.

Assemblyman Scott A. Gray, R-Watertown, said he was aware that the issue was holding up the budget process slightly, but said the Democratic majority has communicated an intent to finish the spending plan by the weekend.

Lawmakers on Monday voted to push the deadline to Thursday, and another extender is expected to be approved when that expires. The Senate convened and disbanded by noon Wednesday, and is scheduled to return to session Thursday morning, while the Assembly disbanded in the afternoon and doesn't have a scheduled session again this week.

©2024 Watertown Daily Times, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.