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Pressure from constituents may prompt state legislators to try ethics reform

So, here’s how it is in Albany, workplace of some of the nation’s most unethical and felonious state legislators. In a state government desperate for ethics reform, the legislative committees in charge of that matter – the ones with “Ethics” in their names – are doing not a thing to improve the condition of the sludge pit known as the State Legislature.

Here’s how bad it is: The former chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee, John L. Sampson, was convicted last year of obstructing a federal investigation into whether he had embezzled state funds. And, still, state legislators are silent.

They should be clamoring for reform. Beating on their leaders’ doors for it. Holding torchlight parades demanding it. But they don’t. Neither members of the ethics committees nor any other group of lawmakers are raising the roof over an issue that saw two former chamber leaders convicted of felonies last year and that threatens the reputation of all who work there.

It’s intolerable. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has again proposed serious ethics reforms, including an end to the LLC loophole and restrictions on outside income, and while lawmakers, true to form, make noises about the need to clean up their act, they do little to accomplish the task. Indeed, Albany’s habit when it comes to ethics reform is to do as little as possible, claim a resounding victory, then crawl back into the sewer to continue business as usual.

The fundamental problem is that lawmakers don’t want to toughen their ethics requirements. They like being able to engage in conflicts brought on by outside income. They like being able to shake the money tree in virtually unlimited amounts, courtesy of the LLC loophole.

It doesn’t matter to them that former Speaker Sheldon Silver and former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos were convicted of felonies related to their offices. Legislators shrug at the parade of crooks that prosecutors pluck out of the Legislature and other state offices. If they have a shred of indignation about it, they conceal it very well.

It’s enough. Rank-and-file lawmakers have the power to change the rules and to force action, as they did – reluctantly – in the days after Silver and Skelos were first arrested. They forced them out of their leadership positions, giving lie to the fairy tale that they have no power. Together, they have plenty and they need to use it to give New Yorkers a government befitting a great democracy.

Here are the local representatives whose efforts should play into voters’ evaluation of their worthiness to remain in office.

Assemblyman John Ceretto, D-Niagara Falls; cerettoj@assembly.state.ny.us. Assemblywoman Jane Corwin, R-Clarence; corwinj@assembly.state.ny.us. Assemblyman David DiPietro, R-East Aurora; dipietrod@assembly.state.ny.us. Assemblyman Joseph Giglio, R-Olean; giglioj@assembly.state.ny.us. Assemblyman Andy Goodell, R-Jamestown; goodella@assembly.state.ny.us. Assemblyman Michael Kearns, D-Buffalo; kearnsm@assembly.state.ny.us. Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes; peoplec@assembly.state.ny.us. Assemblyman Sean Ryan, D-Buffalo; ryans@assembly.state.ny.us. Assemblyman Robin Schimminger, D-Buffalo; schimmr@assembly.state.ny.us. Assemblyman Raymond Walter; R-Williamsville; walterr@assembly.state.ny.us. Assemblywoman Angela Wozniak, R-Cheektowaga; wozniaka@assembly.state.ny.us.

Sen. Patrick Gallivan, R-Elma; gallivan@nysenate.gov. Sen. Timothy Kennedy, D-Buffalo; kennedy@nysenate.gov. Sen. Robert Ortt, R-North Tonawanda; ortt@nysenate.gov. Sen. Marc Panepinto, D-Buffalo; panepinto@nysenate.gov. Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer, R-Amherst; ranz@nysenate.gov. Sen. Catharine Young, R-Olean; cyoung@nysenate.gov.

Let them know you expect action.