Ethics reform that looks good on paper but lacks teeth is ultimately meaningless. Over the past several days we recognized Sunshine Week in New York State, a week meant to highlight the importance of transparent government and ethics. Over the past several years we’ve seen half-measures on ethics reform come and go.
The Joint Commission on Public Ethics has failed to live up to its promise; a watered-down ethics package passed in last year’s budget brought no change to Albany, and the Moreland Commission’s abbreviated work generated more questions than answers. While the Governor and Assembly Majority recently announced reform proposals to address some of these issues, I want to emphasize that any bills that fall short of true, meaningful and comprehensive reform will be considered a failure.
Instilling confidence in our constituents is a vital part of our ability to do our job. We are elected by New York voters and are responsible for advancing measures that create an open, economically strong and safe state. As we continue the conversation about reform we must keep in mind that what becomes law must ultimately serve the people of New York. The Assembly Minority Conference will not settle for superficial legislation that looks good in a press release but in reality does nothing to instill ethics reform in our government.
For this reason, I think it is important to include all legislative leaders in upcoming budget negotiations. The voice of the Assembly Minority Conference at budget meetings and introduction of the numerous great ideas we have developed into any budget meetings would benefit the millions of New Yorkers we represent, as well as the rest of the state.
A CONFERENCE DEDICATED TO SOLUTIONS
For years, the Assembly Minority Conference has led the charge in Albany for greater accountability and transparency. Our Public Officers Accountability Act (A.4617) strikes at the heart of public corruption. It would, among other things:
- Institute eight-year term limits for legislative leaders and committee chairs;
- Require the return of campaign funds to donors or charity upon felony convictions;
- Create a new crime for failure to report corruption;
- Limit use of campaign funds to campaign activities and prohibit use of those funds for criminal defense fees; and
- Replace the Joint Commission on Public Ethics with a truly independent investigative panel.
These are common-sense measures that address public misbehavior from a number of angles. Further, we have consistently called for a constitutional change that would strip convicted felons of their pensions (A.4643). Together, we must continue to urge other legislative leaders and the governor to consider enacting reform that roots out corruption and puts the power of government back in the hands of the people of 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 email@example.com, find me by searching for Assemblyman Brian Kolb on Facebook, and follow me on Twitter.