Albany Foxes Propose to Guard the Hen House

Albany "reforms" do not go far enough

By gabe pressman
|  Friday, Jan 15, 2010  |  Updated 7:15 AM EDT
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Albany Foxes Propose to Guard the Hen House

NBCNewYork

Senators talked over each other during this summer's coup -- keeping backs turned before calling a recess after a five minute session.

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The foxes are proposing that they guard the hen house. That’s the latest word from Albany -- but nothing that happens there should be surprising. This proposal is par for the course.

It’s no secret that the people who run our state have been having ethical problems. But the approach they’re advocating to clean the place up is not reassuring.

In the wake of a series of scandals revealing political corruption at the highest levels, leaders of the Legislature have come up with a plan that would require their members to disclose more about their outside income and face more oversight by investigative bodies.

But -- and this is a one -- the Assembly and the Senate have not endorsed Governor Paterson’s idea to create a truly independent commission to scrutinize the behavior of both the legislative and executive branches of government. Also, this proposal would make it possible for many lawmakers to avoid disclosing the names of their outside business clients.

Paterson says he’ll veto the proposed legislation because it doesn’t go far enough. His aides call the Legislature’s effort "election year window dressing."

Susan Lerner of Common Cause told me: "We don’t think this should be enacted."

Lerner is the head of an organization whose mission is to scrutinize the actions of government- -- and she feels this proposal hardly goes far enough. "The watchdogs report to the legislative committees….This is a sad statement of the inability of the Legislature to distinguished between small steps and the sweeping reform the situation requires."

The legislative package contains some small improvements like allowing the public to see the range of income legislators get from outside jobs. Those who act as consultants would be required to disclose their clients.

Yet the essential need -- independent scrutiny -- is lacking. And, sadly, you must reach the conclusion: these guys just don’t get it.

The legislative leaders are high on their program.They ‘re convinced they’re doing the right thing.

There’s an old Hebrew proverb that says: " Don’t let the cat guard the cream." Still another old Proverb reads "Don’t set a wolf to watch the sheep."

In more gentle words, a nursery rhyme reads: "Sleep, my little one, sleep. Thy father guards the sheep."

If the people of New York are depending on these guys to guard us, we are in trouble.

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