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Avella leads Albany fight for legislative term limits

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) held a meeting with reporters last week to discuss his first 100 days in office as a state legislator and some of his plans for the immediate future. Avella, who served two terms in the City Council prior to being elected to the Senate in November, expressed some frustration with adjusting to the bureaucracy of Albany.

“It’s been a totally different experience from the City Council,” said the senator, who explained that office supplies such as paper towels have to actually be sent from Albany as a way to illustrate what he called a convoluted system.

Avella said that since he took office, the state Legislature has been primarily concerned with passing an on-time budget, which he thought included some terrible cuts — in particular to education — and should have had a real millionaire’s tax. During his brief tenure, the senator has sponsored 22 bills. A bill to establish an act to protect sea grass is Avella’s first to be passed through a committee, and he points to this as a sign that Senate Republicans are willing to work with him.

“It’s a much more cooperative group than you would have thought,” he said.

Avella sits on six committees: Aging; Agriculture; Cities; Education; Environmental Conversation; and Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs. After running on a platform of ethics reform, he has introduced bills to prevent elected officials from “double dipping” by collecting retirement while still in office and increasing a legislator’s term from two to four years.

“Part of the dysfunction of Albany is that they’re constantly running for office,” he said. Avella believes a four-year term would prevent lawmakers from avoiding controversial issues for fear of alienating voters. He has also taken individual action to set an ethical standard, such as cutting up his state-issued parking placard — which read “on official police business” — and refused his lulu, a $9,500 payment ostensibly for the extra work of being on a committee, but one he said is used by the leadership to secure a member’s loyalty.

The senator said his office recently sent out 111,000 civic-action checklists to solicit feedback from his constituents and has already received 300 responses.

“I personally look at every one that comes in,” he said.

In order to make himself accessible, Avella said he plans to continue the tradition of mobile offices he conducted while in the Council. Beginning in July, he plans to set up the makeshift offices on the weekends outside co-op buildings and supermarkets.

The senator will hold his first town-hall meeting at MS 172, at 81-14 257th St., May 12 at 7 p.m.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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