I am eager to join my colleagues in Albany to begin what I expect will be an active and effective remainder of the 2013 Legislative session. With a third consecutive on-time budget behind us, it is time to roll up our sleeves and get to work on critical areas and issues affecting the people of this great state. A great deal has happened since the state budget was finalized, and the priorities take on added importance in Albany.
Restoring the public’s faith in government
Recent corruption charges brought against a few Albany lawmakers generated disturbing headlines and rightfully heightened the public’s concern about the integrity and honesty of their elected officials. As public servants, I firmly believe that our greatest obligation during the remainder of the 2013 legislative session is to deliver meaningful and effective initiatives that root out corruption, curtail abuses of power, and restore public confidence in government.
The governor’s recent announcement of a “Public Trust Act” is intended to create a new class of public corruption crimes and improve prosecutors’ ability to crack down on corruption. It is an encouraging step. But it is only a first step.
During the next several weeks, I will work with my colleagues to expand on existing bills and develop new legislation that specifically targets the problem of corruption and criminal activity in state government. The Assembly Minority Conference has proposed measures that directly address this issue and we are committed to advancing initiatives that:
§ Provide for the forfeiture of pensions for convicted state officials;
§ Institute term limits for legislative leaders;
§ Increase criminal penalties for wrongdoers;
§ Evaluate campaign-finance rules and regulations; and
§ Review the effectiveness and current construction of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, or JCOPE.
This is an opportunity to take meaningful and unprecedented action that effectively curtails the abuse of public office by elected officials. The time is now. I will do everything in my power to ensure essential policies and responsible legislation moves forward. The people of the Finger Lakes expect and deserve nothing less.
New Yorkers’ needs remain front & center
As we work on these efforts that try to restore public confidence in government, we must not be distracted from the real, everyday needs of hard-working New Yorkers. I have said that the 2013-2014 state budget was on time, but off-target. We need more jobs, lower taxes, and fewer regulatory hurdles to get upstate New York back on track — and the public demands it. The energy, passion, and voices Finger Lakes residents have displayed about their state government and the direction we need to take has never been stronger.
During the past two weeks, I hosted two events to provide an opportunity for the public to express comments and concerns about the most pressing issues in the Finger Lakes region. More than 2,000 people participated in my recent Tele-Town Hall Meeting. And, a standing-room-only crowd attended my educational forum on the NY Safe Act to ask questions, express their displeasure, and exercise their First Amendment rights in speaking out against terrible public policy.
Strength in numbers
What’s important now is for people to continue to make their voices heard and to keep the momentum moving forward. Collectively, voters can make change happen — it’s one of the fundamental principles on which our democracy was founded. The discussions we will engage in regarding public integrity, quality-of-life programs, and protecting our constitutional freedoms must continue. Now, more than ever, it is imperative that we continue the fight for initiatives that will lead to a vibrant New York state.
Brian M. Kolb (R,I,C–Canandaigua) is the New York Assembly Minority Leader and represents the 131st Assembly District, which encompasses all of Ontario County and parts of Seneca County. Contact him at email@example.com