Time to get personal on public rogues - The Buffalo News

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Time to get personal on public rogues

In his last newsletter before resigning from the Assembly to pursue other interests – hopefully, not young women – Dennis Gabryszak took credit for state passage of Jay-J’s Law, increasing the look-back period when prosecuting child abusers.

Jay-J’s Law continues a growing trend of personalizing crime bills by naming them for the victim whose plight brought the issue to public attention.

But when it comes to cleaning up Albany’s cesspool by reining in its male miscreants, there’s a better way than by immortalizing the victims: Start naming reform bills for the perpetrators.

Egomaniacal politicians too full of themselves to realize they are God’s curse on women might nevertheless quake at the thought of being reduced to a permanent laugh line in the criminal code.

We could start with Dennis’ Law, to dishonor the Cheektowaga Democrat who announced his resignation as an assemblyman Sunday after seven – count ’em, seven – current or former female staff members accused him of various forms of sexual harassment that also left them in fear for their jobs.

The public hearing on that bill could be held simultaneously with the one for Vito’s Law, named for former Bronx Assemblyman Vito Lopez, whose own sexual-harassment troubles were playing out at the same time Gabryszak was engaging in the “mutual banter” that got him drummed out of government.

Both legislators might have benefited from Eliot’s Law, which would have schooled them on the hazards of any kind of sexual escapades after former Gov. Eliot Spitzer was driven from office after being identified as Client 9 for a high-priced call girl.

But, of course, Albany’s problems go far beyond a series of zipper-gates – and so should the solutions. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is using the Gabryszak scandal to promote reform, including a Women’s Equality Act. But he’s also pushing new bribery and anti-corruption bills, which simply need better names to garner more support.

Alan’s Law would make it illegal to trade on one’s government position for lucrative kickbacks. It would recall former State Comptroller Alan Hevesi, who spent 20 months in prison for taking $1 million worth of vacations and other gifts in return for steering state pension fund dollars to the favored investor.

Joe’s Law would similarly make it illegal for legislators to trade government action for money. It would be named for former Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, whose 2009 trial ended in convictions on two counts after he was charged with accepting $400,000 in exchange for steering state grants to the donor. The convictions were overturned when the U.S. Supreme Court threw out part of the applicable law, but he’ll be retried this year.

Of course, there already are laws prohibiting most of the behavior that has gotten these officials in trouble. The problem is that the statutes have dull, boring names that are hard to remember. That makes them ineffective deterrents when legislative Lotharios and political pilferers do a quick cost-benefit analysis before crossing the line.

If the statutes were personalized with the names of their former colleagues, they might more easily remember that, yes, the law really does apply to them.

email: rwatson@buffnews.com

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