Thursday, June 04, 2009

Shelly Silver Goes Regressive On Ethics Reform

Reform is something that Albany desperately needs, yet like the end of a rainbow, it seems impossible to get to. Sure, there are some attempts at it but getting a handle on the core problems of our state government is like grasping at straws. The case in point here is Majority Leader Smith and Governor Paterson's call for an independent ethics commission. Those two leaders seem to be on board but to get anything done in our state capitol all three men in the room have to sign off, and the other one isn't willing to budge.

From The NYT Cityroom:

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver unveiled a complex proposal at the meeting that appeared to doom any chance of swift action. His plan would create three commissions charged with ethics and lobbying oversight of the executive branch and the Legislature. The governor and Senate Democrats have proposed creating a single, independent ethics and lobbying commission with jurisdiction over both branches of government.

At the heart of the differing approaches is Mr. Silver’s unwillingness to cede the Legislature’s control of its own ethics oversight. He proposed recreating the current, much-maligned Legislative Ethics Commission along the lines of the Office of Congressional Ethics in the House of Representatives.

He also proposed breaking up the integrity commission into separate commissions overseeing lobbying and ethics, reviving a structure that existed before 2007.

And of course, things were just as bad before 2007 under the old system. The reality is that Congress and the New York Legislature cannot police themselves, since they've shown time and again that the best they can do is slap each other on the wrist. Currently we have two indicted men serving in the State Senate and an unknown number of dubious characters, yet Smith does next to nothing to reprimand them, for fear of losing his majority. Speaker Silver, in the other chamber, is definitely a dubious character and knows it, that is why he isn't favoring this bill. Don't expect him to put his name on anything that would resemble real reform. The only way that would happen is with another Speaker, preferably not connected to the current one.