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Lawmakers can clean up Albany in three ways

TimesLedger Newspapers

Soon voters in New York state will again head to the polls to vote in the upcoming general election. While I am not a candidate for office this year, the season brings me back to 2010, when I was a candidate for the state Assembly. It also reminds me of how dysfunctional our state government still is and how hard it will be to fix it.

In the two years since I ran for the Assembly, our state government has once again been a miserable failure and remains a cesspool of corruption. Two years ago, nearly every candidate, from Montauk to Buffalo, was a self-proclaimed “independent reformer.” These charlatans promised to rein in lobbyists and special interests, institute independent redistricting and pass ethics laws to curb corruption. None of that happened in the last session of the state Legislature.

Lobbyists and special interests still buy and own our politicians. Many times it is not the most-informed or most well-intentioned candidates who win elections. Instead, most of the time it is the candidate who is best at selling his or her soul to the monied lobbyists and special interests who gets elected. Once these rascals get to Albany, instead of writing and passing legislation for the betterment of their communities and our state, they push legislation and contracts that support their financial backers.

Regarding independent redistricting, while in 2010 nearly every candidate signed former Mayor Ed Koch’s pledge to pass an independent redistricting law, once they got to Albany the same folks forgot their pledge and saddled our state with hideous, politically motivated districts for the next 10 years.

Instead of having an independent commission draw district lines that are concise and compact and keep communities together, we again have politically motivated districts that snake through and divide communities in order to protect the incumbent representative’s re-election prospects.

The worst act of insult was the Legislature’s passage of a joke of an ethics law. The law did nothing to stop the corruptive influence of dirty money in Albany. No one cared to pass campaign finance laws to stop the corruption. No one cared to close the loopholes that monied interests use to bypass the current campaign finance laws. No one passed any laws to stop the revolving door between government officials and lobbyists.

My suggestion to the winners of the 2012 state elections is to go to Albany and do something. I suggest you start with three important pieces of legislation:

1. It is time to pass real campaign finance reform that eliminates the stranglehold lobbyists and special interests have on politicians. Arizona, Maine and Connecticut have enacted public financing of elections laws that have worked. It is time to create such a program for New York. It is time politicians answer to the people who vote for them and not the people who finance their political campaigns.

2. While it will not help until the next decade, Albany must pass an independent redistricting law now so we do not have to deal with the political shenanigans we witnessed this year.

3. Albany should pass an ethics reform bill that will include an independent investigative body and bars anyone on the state payroll from lobbying the state for five years after their leave of employ.

I understand these three laws will not fix all the problems in Albany, but I they would be a good first move forward. It is time for New York voters to wake up and demand good government.

Until we make that demand, we will continue to have to live with do-nothing politicians who are puppets of lobbyists and special interests, Albany will continue to be the cesspool of corruption it is and we will continue to get our press reports of some politician being indicted, convicted or sent to prison.

Steve Behar

Bayside

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