Distractions Don't Diminish Need For Real Ethics Reform

“Historic” is a bold word to describe muted ethics proposals that barely scratch the surface of a woefully broken system. But as the 2016 Legislative Session approaches its final week, Gov. Cuomo continues to oversell his reform efforts as groundbreaking. 
 
With time running out, the governor unveiled two proposals aimed at campaign donations. One proposal closes donation loopholes for some organizations, but leaves a path to abuse wide open for others. The other proposal reforms a campaign finance system that impacts only 7 percent of money in New York politics.
 
ALBANY STILL FAILING TO ADDRESS ROOT PROBLEMS
 
Neither of these initiatives relates in any way to the corruption that resulted in the convictions of former legislative leaders Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos, or to the current criminal investigation into state economic development programs.
 
It’s unacceptable to call recent half-hearted efforts anything more than what they are - incomplete. The only thing historic about this year is the unbelievable number of investigations, arrests and convictions of public employees and elected officials who have left New Yorkers searching for changes to the corrupt culture in Albany.
 
It’s the last week of session, and inexplicably talks about meaningful ethics reform have amounted to nothing but lip service. Some press reports indicate a bill to strip pensions from convicted public officials has momentum. But as we saw last year – when Assembly Democrats reneged on agreed-upon legislation – nothing is guaranteed.
 
INACTION ON ETHICS WOULD BE INEXCUSEABLE
 
Even if a pension bill is passed, that doesn’t amount to historic reform. Prohibiting convicted officials from receiving taxpayer-funded retirement checks is just common-sense. In addition, Albany still needs to enact measures supported by the Assembly Minority Conference, including: term limits on leadership positions to curb the accumulation of power; greater oversight and disclosures on discretionary spending and economic development programs; an overhaul to the state budget process; and a new, independent ethics watchdog not staffed by political appointees. 
 
Unfortunately, serious anti-corruption proposals have been swept under the rug. Leaving 2016 with no action on those reforms is an injustice and an embarrassment.
 
We are at a critical point in New York. We must conduct ourselves with integrity and earn back the trust of those who put us in office. We cannot effectively legislate if we do not have the faith, support and confidence of the people of New York. As we get ready to close the book on the 2016 Legislative Session, it is vital we take the necessary steps to truly, genuinely clean up the corrupt system that has buried New York. 
 
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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