Walsh Weighs in on State Legislature’s Need to Address Ethics Reform

A legislative column by Assemblywoman Mary Beth Walsh (R,C,I,Ref-Ballston)
August 2, 2017

They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Unfortunately for New Yorkers, it appears that when it comes to ethics in state government, the Assembly Majority and Gov. Cuomo appear more than content to maintain the insane status quo here in Albany.

It’s no secret that our conference has pushed for legislation aimed to clean up Albany politics in recent years. Now, in light of Sheldon Silver’s 2015 corruption charge being overturned and the forthcoming indictments of Gov. Cuomo’s top aides and campaign donors, it is more important than ever that we acknowledge the immediate need to address this concerning trend.

While I am confident that Silver will be retried and convicted, the fact still remains that nothing has been done from a legislative standpoint to keep these types of crimes from happening again. As an elected official, I am sick and tired of this cloud of dishonesty hanging over the capitol, and I know I’m not alone in feeling this way.

It’s clear that all New Yorkers, Minority and Majority, are united in a desire for an ethical and transparent state government. Why is it then that our attempts to deliver that for our constituents have met roadblocks at every turn? Whether it’s our conference’s attempts to enact term limits for legislative leaders, increase comptroller oversight of Gov. Cuomo’s economic development programs or enact campaign finance reform measures, our efforts have been ignored entirely by an Assembly Majority who clearly does not think you deserve to know how hundreds of millions of your tax dollars are being spent.

In my time in Albany, I have supported and even co-sponsored several ethics reform measures, including the Public Officer’s Accountability Act, legislative proceedings reform and a bill increasing transparency in the funding of state development projects. Unfortunately, these bills, along with many others, were either defeated or blocked from vote or debate altogether.

Despite these setbacks, we were able to pass a constitutional amendment that would strip pensions from state officials who are convicted of a felony related to their job during this year’s legislative session. However, it is up to the voters to decide if this amendment will be enacted. If you agree with me that our elected officials need to be held to a higher standard, be sure to vote in favor of this amendment in November.

While there is still much work to be done, I am confident that, together, we can give New Yorkers the ethical, responsible and accountable state government they deserve.