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Assemblyman says Silver case shows need for term limits, ethics reform

Posted 27 January 2015 at 12:00 am

Editor:

With the recent arrest of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on alleged federal corruption charges, the culture of deceit, lies and bribery in Albany has been brought further into the public spotlight.

It is unfortunate that a few members of the legislature refuse to follow the rules and fall victim to money and power. Scandals such as these bring a pejorative perception to the already tainted Albany culture and make it difficult for the rest of us who truly want to do what is best for all New Yorkers.

If the recent news regarding Speaker Silver has demonstrated anything, it is that we need ethics reforms in Albany now more than ever. It goes against the very function of our government to have a single person hold as much power as Sheldon Silver.

Silver has omnipotent control over which bills come before the Assembly for a vote and how taxpayer funds are used. The length of time Silver has been in office, more than 20 years, has allowed him to accumulate significant wealth and power. Now we have discovered that much of his wealth and power allegedly was either illegally obtained or used to promote his own private interests.

If we are to truly reform Albany’s culture of corruption, we need to pass the Public Officers Accountability Act. I sponsored this legislation last legislative term, along with almost all of my Assembly Minority colleagues, because I know that abuses of power such as these should be handled proactively.

This legislation limits the time a member of the legislature can serve as a committee chair or legislative leader to eight years, bans elected officials from future employment for certain felony convictions, and requires the return of campaign funds to donors or charities upon certain felony convictions. Furthermore, I sponsored Assembly Bill 4935 of 2014 that proposes stripping pension and retirement benefits from public officials convicted of certain felonies.

Until these bills are taken up for a vote, we are leaving the door open for further abuses of power and theft from the public coffers. The last thing we need is career politicians who have lost interest in benefiting their constituencies in exchange for padding their own pockets and ensuring their own re-election.

The only way to handle serious ethics violations is with a serious ethics reform bill, and the Public Officers Accountability Act provides a plethora of reforms that will prevent these abuses before they happen again.

State Assemblyman Steve Hawley
Batavia