The state Legislature comes back into session today! Hooray! We’re saved!
With a single party in control of state government for the first time in a couple decades, there’s renewed hope for passage of important legislation that had died when Republicans controlled the state Senate. (At least that’s what the Democrats have led us to believe.)
Among the legislation that should get swift approval in the new legislative session is the Child Victims’ Act, which would extend the statute of limitations on child sex crimes and provide a one-year window for victims of older crimes to come forward and receive justice.
Another is election reform to boost voter participation, including extended voting (more voting days), same-day and online registration, no-excuse absentee ballots and related measures.
New York is behind other states on these common-sense, proven reforms.
To increase transparency in government and remove opportunities for corruption and conflict in state awards of government contracts, lawmakers need to finally pass the Database of Deals and the Procurement Integrity Act this year.
The first would require the state to create a searchable public online database that would provide detailed information about public projects and the businesses that receive government support. The other would restore oversight powers over government business to the state comptroller’s office that are now held by one man — the governor.
No lawmaker could dispute the need for more transparency and accountability, especially in light of the recent corruption trials involving the Buffalo Billion initiative and other scandals.
Our state government also needs to quickly pass LLC reform that allows big-money donors to avoid traditional campaign donation limits and gives the wealthy undue ability to influence and corrupt state lawmakers. This is just one reform necessary to help restore the public’s trust in the electoral system.
Lawmakers also need to make permanent the state tax cap, which has successfully helped rein in property taxes.
These all can be passed quickly.
Among the issues needing more careful deliberation are the legalization of recreational marijuana and online sports gambling, changes to the school funding formula to help poorer districts, reforms to the Metropolitan Transit Authority, improving access to health care for New Yorkers and addressing the state’s growing infrastructure problem.
These issues are complex and haven’t been fully vetted by debate and research over the years as other legislation has.
We know the reality of politics. And no, we don’t expect miracles from state politicians, many of whom have legitimate grounds for disagreement on policy and priorities.
But we can expect our government representatives to work diligently and cooperatively to improve conditions for New York’s citizens and businesses.
With each new year, there is reason for optimism, even in state government.
Let’s hope that optimism is finally rewarded.