Best News Story for February 1, 2009

Congratulations to Tom Precious of the Buffalo News for writing the best news story for February 1, 2009.  His piece  entitled “Albany is New York’s capital of dysfunction” (Buffalo News, 2/1/09) summarizes what’s wrong with NYS government, builds on interview with a top FBI investigator who spent 3 years gathering the evidence that was used to indictment former Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno on eight charges of public corruption to indict Albany’s way of doing governmen

Several alternative titles would have worked just as well. For example:

  1. Lack of Transparency Hides Legislative Maneuvers
  2. Lobbyists Reign Supreme in Albany
  3. Information is Not Free in Albany
  4. Government Still for Sale in Albany
  5. Democracy Withers in Albany Gloom (poetic license #3468124823437)

Experts interviewed by Precious identify three changes that are crucial to restoring honesty in government:

  1. Redistricting.  As long as the Legislature defines its own legislative district boundaries, democracy will be something New Yorkers can only read about as a once and future ideal.
  2. Campaign Finance Laws.  Precious outlines the money culture surrounding lobbying and campaign fund raising.  Do not read after eating.
  3. Oversight. Watchdog groups believe oversight bodies are necessary to monitor the legislative and electoral processes. I agree.  (See my previous post on the Legislative Ethics Commission.)

I strongly favor the creation of an independent budget agency that would not only evaluate the state budget, but would also be charged with reporting fiscal projections of any legislation that is introduced that has a price tag say of more than $10,000.  Such a body along with a restriction that no bill with a potential cost of more than $10,000 could passed within 10 days of its introduction, thus allowing such a commission to report on its likely cost, would save taxpayers millions of dollars currently wasted and/or funneled to individual legislators’ favored friends and family members.

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