State legislators from Westchester are renewing their calls for ethics reform in Albany.
Momentum for sweeping changes follow the recent criminal convictions of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, ex-Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and State Sen, Thomas Libous, a Binghamton Republican once in line to succeed Skelos.
Silver, a Manhattan Democrat, and Skelos, a Nassau County Republican, grew accustomed to lax prosecution over decades of ruling the roost in Albany.
State Sen. George Latimer, a Democrat from Rye, said, "Once (Silver) was indicted, I called for his resignation because it is less about the degree of guilt than it is the constant erosion of any respect in the eyes of the public."
Assemblyman David Buchwald, a Democrat from White Plains, said, "Now, more than ever, I believe this is a time for action. New Yorkers need to see tangible improvement in the rules that promote ethics and open, transparent government."
Buchwald said various reform proposals remain on the table: "Among the most direct ways we can send the message that public corruption is unacceptable is to adopt my legislation to strip pensions from public officers who commit felonies in connection with their jobs,'' Buchwald said.
Assembly bill 7704 passed by a wide margin and the Senate passed a similar bill, also on a broad, bipartisan basis.
"One of my main goals in the next legislative session is to reconcile the differences between those two versions so that the people of New York will be able to vote on the proposal, which is a state Constitutional Amendment,'' Buchwald said. "More broadly, New Yorkers need to demand meaningful reform, including on reducing the impact of money on policy making."
Assemblyman Tom Abinanti, a Democrat who represents Greenburgh and Mount Pleasant, had a different view: "We have enough laws, witnessed by the fact people are being arrested and convicted."
Abinanti introduced legislation to protect whistleblowers, but it has not gained wide support in Albany. Such legislation, he said, would encourage others with information about suspected corruption to assist investigators with less fear of reprisals including losing their jobs. "The laws are sufficient to make illegal all of the bad conduct,'' Abinanti said. "We need to ensure the information about bad acts gets to the prosecutors."
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