2015 was certainly a compelling year in the New York State Capitol. We saw the downfall of two long-time legislative leaders. We sat in legislative gridlock during the early months. We optimistically welcomed a new Speaker after a 20-year reign ended. And now, in the first days of 2016, we need to take all measures necessary to ensure history is not repeated.
It’s no secret that scandal has marred the Capitol over the past few years, and if the need to address ethics wasn’t clear before, I certainly hope it is now. We cannot continue to allow this blatant abuse of power and public trust any longer. This year we need to implement a stringent set of ethics reform measures while also enforcing those already in place.
Since joining the Assembly I have strongly advocated for measures that revitalize the integrity and functionality of the legislature. As a member of the Assembly Ethics Committee and the Legislative Ethics Commission, I have long supported legislation that ensures New York representatives are held to higher standards.
For years, many of my colleagues and I have introduced The Public Officers Accountability Act, which calls for term limits for legislative leaders and committee chairs, campaign finance and member reforms, and replacing the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) with a truly independent integrity panel.
The adoption of our all-encompassing ethics reform solution would eliminate the influence of money in politics, require term limits to prevent power-hungry individuals from being able to impose unilateral leadership for decades, and ensure that the seats in both houses are filled by members who honorably serve their constituents.
Additionally, by eliminating closed door ‘three-men-in-a-room’ decision making, we can encourage an open and accountable legislative process. I am calling on the Assembly Speaker and Senate Majority Leader to join me in advising the governor to offer all conference leaders a seat at the negotiation table. In order to better represent every district in New York State, all of our voices must be heard.
This is a year of opportunity. Since 2011, there has been an approximate 66 percent turnover in the Assembly and Senate combined. I am optimistic that with many fresh perspectives and voices from both sides of the aisle, we can move forward with measures that restore the trust of residents across New York State.
Michael Montesano (R,C,I-Glen Head)