2007-01-05 / Editorial/Opinion

Opinions

Shelly And Joe Must Go If Legislature Is To Be Fixed

There should be no doubt that our state legislature is dysfunctional, and has been so for decades. The idea that all decisions in this state are made by "three men in a smoke-filled room," might be a joke to others, but it is a reality in New York State. For more than a decade, those three men have been Governor George Pataki, State Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno and Assembly Majority Leader Sheldon Silver. Pataki is gone. Bruno and Silver remain. Our new governor, Eliot Spitzer, has pledged to overhaul state government. "What New York needs," the governor said, evoking John F. Kennedy, "is a politics that asks not what's in it for me, but always what's in it for us." That is fine rhetoric, but there will have to be more than rhetoric if the legislature is to be responsive to the will of the people rather than the will of lobbyists and the three men in the smoke-filled room. The insider decision-making process and the reliance on lobbyists to draw up bills has to stop and the only way that will happen is for the Spitzer broom to sweep clean. While he has no control over the personnel that fill the other two seats, he can begin by demanding that legislative bills actually go to the relevant committees and that both senate and assembly members vote their conscience rather than voting the way the leadership dictates. Although the federal investigation is just beginning, it seems that Bruno may soon be charged with using his office to benefit his friends and business associates. That could easily force him to step down, at least from his leadership position. While Silver had run the assembly as a fiefdom for the past two decades, he has never been charged with any legal wrongdoing. That is of no matter. Both Bruno and Silver have abused the people of New York State for far too long. For there to be any real change, the two men must step down and allow some real democracy in the legislature for the first time in years.

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