Opinion: Hoylman on Albany: It’d be funny if it weren’t true

State Senator Brad Hoylman

State Senator Brad Hoylman

By State Senator Brad Hoylman

I was recently asked to speak at the inauguration of a local judge. When it was my turn to give remarks, I told the packed crowd that the judge had asked me to speak about Albany. Without much prompting, the crowd broke into giggles. It’s telling that our state legislature is a punch line.

I think some of us can’t help but laugh because the corruption in Albany has taken on comic proportions. Consider the fact that the criminal acts perpetrated by former Republican Leader Dean Skelos were so brazen as to have been committed after the governor created a special commission under the Moreland Act to investigate public corruption in the state legislature and after the U.S. attorney announced that he had personally taken up the cause. It’s pathetic, sad – and yes, even funny – that Skelos was so arrogant and inept as to pursue his transgressions while federal prosecutors were busy listening to his every word.

The Skelos conviction is just one example why the public has lost confidence in state government. Unfortunately, there are plenty of other reasons, too. Since 2000, 41 state elected officials have been accused, indicted or convicted of official misconduct, including five legislators this year alone, among their ranks, of course, Skelos and former Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver. In the Senate, it’s breathtaking that since 2008, five consecutive leaders of this body have been arrested.

With a problem this big, what’s it going to take to regain the trust of New Yorkers? Reform at the edges isn’t going to work. According to a poll released last week, 90 percent of voters consider corruption a serious problem and two thirds actively support new ethics laws to fix the situation.

A sweeping problem demands sweeping solutions. To that end, the Senate Democratic conference, led by Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, has put forward a comprehensive package of reforms that would help restore public confidence and the legislature’s ability to govern. The package would close the legal loophole that allows LLC entities to circumvent campaign finance restrictions – a glaring problem exposed in both the Skelos and Silver prosecutions – enact a public financing system for elections, lower contribution limits for campaigns, and retroactively strip felon lawmakers of their pensions.

I’m the prime sponsor of three other reform bills in the package. The first would effectively ban moonlighting by legislators by restricting their outside income and holding them to the same standards applied to the U.S. Congress. Currently, being a state legislator is technically a part-time job. As we saw in the Silver trial, however, this allows members to practice law and other kinds of work on the side that can be at odds with the responsibilities to their constituents.

Second, we should prevent legislators facing civil or criminal allegations from using campaign funds for attorneys‘ fees. It’s deceptive to their donors, to say the least, that pols can utilize their war chests for criminal defense. Campaign contributions should not be used as a legal defense slush fund, plain and simple.

My third bill would explicitly outlaw undisclosed self-dealing by making it a felony for public officials to knowingly and secretly direct public funds or business to institutions or organizations in order to benefit themselves, family members or a person with whom they have a financial relationship. The fact that Skelos steered public money to companies which he pressured to employ his son is an outrageous misuse of taxpayer dollars and should be explicitly outlawed.

It’s been said that a crisis is a terrible thing to waste. Just as Congress did in the aftermath of Watergate, legislators in New York should seize the opportunity presented by political scandal to disrupt the status quo and pass wholesale ethics reforms. A government that operates a $45 billion annual budget shouldn’t be a laugh line. With these changes proposed by my colleagues and me in the Senate Democratic Conference, hopefully Albany can be taken seriously once again.

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7 thoughts on “Opinion: Hoylman on Albany: It’d be funny if it weren’t true

  1. #4. Any government official convicted of any felony forfeits his or her right to collect a government pension. Outrageous that Silver and Skelos should continue to be paid by the taxpayers.

    • That was a pretty nasty piece of work, Vickie, but typical of the bile you regularly spew on this site. Please provide something substantial to back up the mud you’re slinging..

        • Judicial immunity and the sociopathic Judges with Mafia power who gave no accountability to anyone or any committee that is real. IN family and divorce court Judges are the absolute largest fraud, Greed, psychotic perpetuators anywhere all over the USA and here in NYC and the surrounding courts totally screwing the public trust with sarcastic and abusive behaviir and decisions where the constitution is not upheld at the state level by all ; conspiracy and more happen with clerks, Police, court reporters, and all are under the power of the Judges harming families… and basically there are horrific 6+years spent in a biased divorce court which puts Bernie Madoff fraud and Rico scam to Shame. IT STARTS WITH THE JUDGES!

          Every day families, kids, especially kids and people are placed into poverty due to the stealing of property and money to line the pockets of attorneys, retired criminal Judges as mediators to further delay on a case and over bill, or in family court parents are charged money to see kids at far distances with SS monitors because documention have been directed by the Judge and experts to have parents pay to see their kids though enourmous pain and separation ….and do nothing but steal money or, CPS -child protective services is a,scam and a revolving door of social workers who do not stay and get fed up with not being able to protect kids. Those that stay are there to deprave and torture families to meet a Quota..a Quota!!!! with no resolution and no protection of theae precious kids. I have over 100 stories in private chatt rooms. JUDGES ENCOURAGE ISOLATION..WITH NO CONTACT OR REACHING OTHER PEOPLE WITH SIMILAR RECUSE CASES COMPLAINING ABOUT THE IUDGE BEING RUDE BIASED AND UNFAIR TO RECUSE THEMSELVES. They do not!! They are evil and criminals not Judges! Mental health professionals WHO STAY are falsifying documention to make healthy kids sick and anxious as to bill more through medical and then are rewarded as the state pays parents for foster care $1500 per special ed kids with problems and $700 for healthy kids for foster care parents who then lock food in refrigerators or engaged kids in sexual exploitation. ..we are paying taxes to steal kids from blood relatives who want to and can care for them. Instead they are trafficked in forced adoptions and foster care for quotas and bonuses like cattle with no human respect!!! I wanted to foster care older kids having raised twin adults since I love kids. I have been neuaseated by the family court and abuse of families and kids with no accountability . ZERO. Judges place kids with the abusive parent in an effort to remove kids permanently to feed the foster care adoption machine. IT IS A SICK DEPRAVED SYSTEM FILLED WITH PEDOPHILES AT THE COURT POLICE AND ALL PERSONS LEVEL. Depravity starts with the Judges promoting a diabolical regime of abuse and exploitation. Hard to believe? Call me I have people all over the USA. THE SAME TEXT BOOK METHODOLOGY USED BY JUDGES AND ATTORNEYS IN COLLUSION. .TAX LIENS OR NOT PAYING $500,000 in taxes to not pay support or maintenance after a 33 yr. Marriage. .or physical emotional and mental abuse not paying medical or dental bills, or con edidon so you have a pitch bkack apartment with computer not working for work or clirt defense……this is to torture or stealing heirlooms and precious item and oictures and jewelry. ..anyway not being able to work or be productive to make money or suboeaning your boss so you lose a job…look lights being turned off or being thrown out of your home with nothing but a 17 yr old and 14 yr old kid with a marshall locking you out of all your clothing. ..these things happen to women married for 17 years with spouses skipping out and women and children are persecuted and not protected bybthe Judge the more moneyed spouse wins ! I have si many stories all over the USA and not just in New York 60 Center Street.

          Judicial immunity and Judges need to be gone unkess there is a Jury and recording going on and all media are allowed into the state courts. IT IS THE WILD WILD WEST WITH MADE UP RULES AS YOU GO. ATTIRNEYS WORK FOR THE JUDGE NOT A DEFENDANT.

          All divorce and family cases need to go to Federal Court where there is a Constitution and law is upheld and conspiracy is criminal and there, are civil charges ALLOWED WITH DAMAGES for Judges signing off on all the PTSD and anxiety caused oppresses biased decisions they make to harn. ,They should be prosecuted after a federal investigation for perjury too and go directly to jail with confiscation of all property for a class action suit for all harmed in triple damages

  2. Over a decade ago, I asked former Assemblymember Steve Sanders why pensions are paid to felons. He said the state constitution prohibited reductions in a workers pension, which is true. I said, “So, change the constitution.”. He said that takes two consecutive terms of the legislature and a state-wide referendum.

    That was more than ten years ago. We have had plenty of opportunities to change the constitution.

    Let’s focus on starting that process, now, and making it a roll-call vote of both houses of the legislature. Everything else is a half-measure subject to being overturned by the courts. The courts can’t overturn a clear expression of the will of the people of New York as expressed in our constitution.

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