Local lawmakers applaud pension ethics reform


Local lawmakers applaud pension ethics reform

The fate of corrupt New York state politicians is now in the hands of the taxpayers.

A proposed bill that would strip pension benefits from officials convicted of corruption passed the New York State Legislature for the second time in two years, paving the way for New Yorkers to decide whether or not to enact the constitutional amendment.

By approving this measure (S418), the next step for this pension forfeiture legislation will be to appear on the ballot in November for voter approval to change the New York State Constitution.

Assemblyman Bill Magee, D-121, expressed his pleasure with the legislation on Tuesday, holding to his reelection promise of fighting Albany corruption.

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“Nobody works as hard as people do in my district. To see their hard-earned tax dollars being squandered by corrupt politicians is an insult to all New Yorkers,” Magee said. “The pension forfeiture constitutional amendment ensures those convicted of crimes related to their elected office will no longer be able to collect a pension on the taxpayer’s dime.”

Two local state senators also gave their stamp of approval.

State Sen. Joseph Griffo, R-47, applauded the New York State Legislature for passing ethical reform. Voting in support of this legislation, Griffo said he is hopeful this constitutional reform will help restore the public’s trust in Albany and their elected officials.

“All public officials are held to a higher standard when they are voted into office, and so no corrupt official should be able to benefit financially after they have violated the public’s trust,” Griffo said. “The voters have expressed that they will not tolerate this type of corruption, and neither will this legislative body. While I believe most public officials are honorable men and women who pursue this service with the best intentions, I am proud to join the public in sending the clear message that public officials are sent to Albany to represent the citizenry, not to enrich themselves at the taxpayers’ expense.”

Griffo noted that he also believes imposing term limits on public officials will help prevent corruption, and he continues to fight for legislation that would set eight-year term limits for leadership positions and committee chairmanships in the Senate and Assembly.

Sen. David Valesky, D-53, was enthused to put the matter in the hands of New York voters.

“I was pleased to support this important measure designed to address public corruption and to give the voters the opportunity to make a final decision in November,” Valesky said.

In 2011, New York state enacted the Public Integrity Reform Act, which states that any public official who joined the retirement system on or after Nov. 13, 2011, is subject to pension forfeiture if convicted of certain felonies related to their public office. However, many public officials joined the retirement system before that date. The New York State Constitution states that public pensions involve a contractual relationship that cannot be reduced or impaired, unless the State Constitution itself is amended.

Under the measure passed by the Senate and Assembly on Monday, a public officer convicted of a felony directly related to his or her duties could be subject to pension reduction or revocation following notice and a court hearing. The court’s decision to reduce or revoke pension benefits would consider factors such as the severity of the crime and whether a reduction might be proportionate to the offense. Public officers include elected officials, direct gubernatorial appointees, municipal managers, department heads, chief fiscal officers and policy-makers.

The proposal would also allow the court to order pension benefits to be paid to an innocent spouse, minor dependents or other dependent family members after consideration of their financial needs and resources.

The legislation must pass both houses of the Legislature in two consecutive legislative sessions. Both the Assembly and the Senate passed the measure during the legislative session last year. Following its passage in both houses this year, it would then appear on the ballot in November for voter approval to change the New York State Constitution.

Source: Oneida Daily Dispatch
Local lawmakers applaud pension ethics reform

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