Believe it or not, progress in Albany
BY Daniel Squadron
I know that many people will be surprised to read about Albany in the “Progress Report.”
And I understand why. In my two years representing Lower Manhattan in the State Senate, there have been some real disappointments: the Senate “coup,” the worst budget crisis since World War II, and the ongoing need to pass ethics reform, marriage equality, tenant protections and more.
But even through these challenges, we have been able to plant the seeds of reform. It is a story of progress made, with much still left to do.
The legislature passed the strongest ethics bill in decades—a bill I wrote with Speaker Silver and my colleague Eric Schneiderman. Though the Governor vetoed our bill, it will nonetheless help lay the groundwork for a new, hopefully even stronger ethics reform package, which I believe the new governor will sign into law. I also wrote a bill with Speaker Silver to make it illegal for public officers to use government resources for their own, for-profit business—to close what I call the “Bruno Gap” ethics loophole, named after former Senate leader Joe Bruno. I am pleased that it became law.
We also worked on tackling New York’s terrible system of financing political campaigns, which empowers lobbyists and a few very wealthy individuals instead of voters and communities. Reforms we proposed include lowering campaign contributions to more reasonable limits (right now one person can contribute more to my State Senate campaign than to President Obama’s re-election!), closing the “LLC loophole” which lets individuals pour virtually unlimited sums of money into political campaigns, and creating a system of public financing similar to the one in New York City. I also pushed to rewrite the Senate rules so that the Senate Leader would no longer hold a personal veto over every piece of legislation. Now, a simple majority of senators can bring bills to the floor, even if the Leader objects—a change that brings new accountability and more democracy to a body in desperate need of both.
Click here to continue reading Senator Squadron's op-ed in the Downtown Express...