Contact: Michael Fraser, (518) 455-3751 (office); (518) 859-8518 (cell)
New York State Assembly Minority Leader Brian M. Kolb (R,C-Canandaigua) and his Assembly Minority colleagues today called for swift action to reform the woefully corrupt culture in the New York State Legislature and enact long-overdue changes to the rules governing the Assembly Chamber. The recent felony convictions of both Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos are painful reminders that the state Legislature cannot maintain the business-as-usual approach that has failed taxpayers and eroded the public trust.
"Too few have had too much power for too long - and the results have been disastrous," said Leader Kolb. "The governor and Assembly Majority have spent a lot of time talking about change, but have yet to prove their commitment to reform. As we begin 2016, we must immediately overhaul the way we conduct ourselves. Without the trust of the people we represent, we cannot fulfill our obligations as lawmakers. We owe it to those who elected us to represent them."
Some of the changes advocated by members of the Assembly Minority include: an end to the "three-men-in-a-room" budget negotiations, rules reforms to chamber operations, pension forfeiture legislation for those who abuse their public positions for personal benefit, advancing the Public Officers Accountability Act, and the Spirit of '76 bill that would require legislation go to the floor for a vote when sponsored by a majority of the members.
"Meaningless legislative gestures and bills that dance around the root causes of corruption are an intolerable insult to the people of New York," said Leader Kolb. "We are long past the time for half measures. Every facet of the culture and operation of the Legislature must change if we are to truly make a difference in the way the people's business is conducted."
The Assembly Minority Conference introduced the Public Officers Accountability Act (A.4617) which, if enacted, would strike at the heart of public corruption. The anti-corruption package of reforms 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;
- Prohibit the use of campaign funds on criminal defense fees;
- Replace the Joint Commission of Public Ethics with an independent oversight panel; and
- Reform member items.
Leader Kolb and members of the Minority Conference outlined rules reform proposals to make government in New York more transparent, fair and ethical. The Assembly Majority has consistently blocked rules changes proposed by the Minority Conference. Despite empaneling a Majority-only rules reform "workgroup" in April to offer recommendations, they have yet to offer a single proposal. Minority Conference rules proposals include:
- Televise standing committee meetings, record them and make them available on the Assembly website;
- Allow each member of the Assembly to have at least one substantive piece of legislation move from committee and be brought to the floor for a vote;
- A measure to make it more difficult to rush legislation with a message of necessity by requiring two-thirds of the members of the Assembly to approve the message; and
- Require a piece of legislation that is sponsored by at least 76 members of the Assembly, or by a vote of the majority of all members of the Assembly, to be brought to the floor for a vote.
"In 2016, we have an opportunity to correct the errant course of the Legislature. It would be inexcusable if we did not," concluded Leader Kolb.
Please see attachment for a list of Assembly Minority rules reform proposals: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxUdKULIVC3fMjdSQWRicThnYTQ/view?usp=sharing.