Assembly Minority Conference Is Calling For Better Ethics Reforms And Stronger Pension Forfeiture Bill

   Assembly Minority Leader Brian M. Kolb (R,C-Canandaigua) and members of the Assembly Minority Conference today called on the Assembly Majority to reconsider its new watered-down, one-house ethics legislation. The latest proposal regarding pension forfeitures for public servants convicted of felonies is vastly different from a previously agreed-upon bill introduced during this year’s budget negotiations. At a time when the public is growing increasingly unhappy with corruption in government, lawmakers should be looking to strengthen language aimed at rooting out corruption, not soften it.
      “This is another example of the Majority’s reluctance to get serious about ethics reform. Pension forfeiture is a common-sense measure that punishes wrongdoers and protects taxpayer dollars,” Leader Kolb said. “This has already passed the Senate and should have been part of the budget vote. By delaying and changing an agreed-upon bill, the Majority has weakened important anti-corruption legislation and virtually guaranteed we will leave Albany without movement on this issue. The latest action from the Assembly Majority insults those who expect accountable government.”  
      “One of the first bills I introduced upon my election to the Assembly was a measure to strip pension and retirement benefits from corrupt politicians and officials. While this legislation accomplishes many goals of my original bill, it is inherently flawed and represents the watered-down, partisan ethics reforms we have seen in Albany recently. Union members in influential government positions who breach the public’s trust should be held accountable – but today, the power of their campaign contributions took precedence over being held to the same, fair standard. This bill is a last-ditch effort by Assembly Democrats to make good on a promise that was left unfilled during budget negotiations. While we are moving in the right direction, Albany remains soft on ethics reform and New York’s citizens will continue to pay the price,” said Assemblyman Dan Stec (R,C,I-Queensbury).  
      Revision of the pension forfeiture bill is the latest action by the Majority to prevent meaningful anti-corruption measures and reforms from advancing in the Assembly Chamber. Despite a legislative session severely disrupted by corruption arrests, and despite touting its own “Reform Caucus,” this year the Majority Conference has:

   · Voted against imposing term limits for legislative leaders;
   · Voted against imposing term limits for committee chairs;
   · Failed to advance reforms to increase transparency, such as    
     record and televise committee meetings;
   · Voted against the Public Officers Accountability Act, the most
     stringent anti-corruption bill package; and
   · Failed to pass legislation to allow each member of the Assembly to
      bring at least one bill to the floor for a vote every two-year
      legislative cycle.
      An agreement between legislative leaders on a much stronger bill leading up to the budget was removed from consideration in the Assembly at the 11th hour with little explanation. Now, a new bill that limits the scope of potential pension forfeitures to only elected officials and a select number of people who fit the bill’s narrowed criteria is being pushed by the Assembly Majority. Under the previous agreement, nearly all public servants would have been subject to the law. Further, the new legislation allows for judicial discretion when applying punishment, and the families of those convicted may still collect taxpayer money. This is hardly a disincentive to commit crime.

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