Albany's Ethical Challenge Has Gone Unmet

We are nearly four full months into the legislative session, and nothing has been done to address corruption in Albany.  In a few short weeks, former legislative leaders Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos will be sentenced on felony corruption crimes.
 
The arrests, trials and convictions of two of Albany’s most powerful officials have done nothing to inspire change at the Capitol. As a result, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to believe even prison terms would cause any seismic shift. 
 
PRIORITIES ARE OUT OF FOCUS
 
The state Assembly has passed 305 bills thus far in 2016. Among them, you will not find anything related to implementing term limits on leadership positions, stripping pensions from convicted public officials, limiting the influence of special interests, or creating an ethics panel independent from political ties and favors.
 
Not only is it unconscionable that we have accomplished nothing on ethics reform, it’s equally as troubling that recent events present an image of Albany heading even deeper into the abyss. For example: 

  • This week, voters in the 65th Assembly District allowed Mr. Silver to effectively hand-pick his successor in Tuesday’s special election. They chose to send to Albany a candidate fully supported by Silver’s surrogates and who referred to the disgraced former Speaker and convicted felon as a “hero.” 
  • In January, one of the governor’s closest advisors left state employment to work for a private-sector company with business before the state. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, he maintains an active role in the operations of the governor’s office and is a fixture with the governor at public appearances. It’s hard to imagine optics that exhibit a more obvious conflict of interest. 
  • Despite calls for greater transparency from every corner, state budget negotiations were even more secretive this year. Meetings were moved away from the Capitol, discussions failed to include all legislative leaders, and even the fact that negotiations occurred was kept hidden from media and the public.

NO ETHICS. NO COMMITMENT. 
 
The institution of government in New York is badly wounded. Public officials have a core responsibility to facilitate change if the people’s trust is ever going to be restored. With the budget complete, we must devote our collective efforts to delivering meaningful legislative reforms that prohibit the abuses of office we’ve seen. I’m proud that for years, the Assembly Minority Conference has proposed reforms in the Public Officers Accountability Act – a legislative package designed to root out corruption, change the status quo, and end Albany practices that enable the accumulation and abuse of power.     
 
After the convictions of Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos, I said that those who lack the conviction to change the culture in Albany should be held accountable. If there are no comprehensive reforms by June, New York voters should ensure accountability is delivered in November.
 
What do you think? I want to hear from you. Send me your feedback, suggestions and ideas regarding this or any other issue facing New York State. You can always contact my district office at (315) 781-2030, email me at kolbb@assembly.state.ny.us, find me by searching for Assemblyman Brian Kolb on Facebook, and follow me on Twitter.

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