Contact: Mike Fraser, (518) 859-8518
The Legislature returned to Albany this week to begin a new year, convene a new legislative session and hopefully, start a new chapter in New York State government. I had the privilege of addressing my colleagues in the Assembly on our first day back, and took the opportunity to challenge them to bring change to our Chamber.
Less than a month after a second legislative leader was convicted of abusing his office, the Capitol remains under a cloud of corruption and a haze of doubt. Legislators have a greater responsibility than ever to restore the public trust. That goal can only be achieved by implementing dramatic changes to the broken system we now employ.
A WAKE-UP CALL AT THE CAPITOL
Among the many lessons learned from the trials and convictions of Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos is that power in Albany has been held by too few for too long. The state's budget and most important policy discussions are conducted with the notorious "three men in a room" approach. For the past several years, New York's most important decisions were made by three men - two of whom are on their way to prison.
After the arrest of Sheldon Silver last year, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said, "There are by my count 213 men and women in the state legislature, and yet it is common knowledge that only three men essentially wield all the power. I must confess a little bit of confusion about this: When did this come to pass? Why has everyone just come to accept it?"
It has been accepted practice for too long. It is time to return power to individual legislators. Too many intelligent and passionate voices - on both sides of the political aisle - have been stifled by a power structure that actually runs counter to the goals of democracy. Bills that have widespread, bipartisan support (Mixed Martial Arts, Brittany's Law and pension forfeiture, to name a few) should be allowed to be voted on, rather than be blocked by a single individual.
ASSEMBLY MINORITY FOCUSED ON REFORM
On Wednesday, I issued a call to action for all legislators - to stand up, change the status quo, and end the "go along to get along" representation that leaves decision making to party leadership.
The Assembly Minority Conference is committed to implementing necessary changes to ensure that the interests of constituents come before party politics. We will once again introduce a package of reforms that hold elected officials more accountable, create transparency in how we conduct the people's business, and give rank-and-file legislators a stronger voice for their districts.
We have seen public confidence erode under the old system. The time for change in Albany starts now. And we will be a driving force for a better New York State.
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 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.