Brabenec: Assembly GOP is Albany’s “Guardian Angels”

Assemblyman Karl Brabenec has learned a few things in his first year in Albany that might make one a little cynical about the government practices he taught about as an instructor at SUNY Orange before taking office. Take the negotiation and adoption of a state budget, the most significant task legislators undertake each year.

Three men hash it out behind closed doors and deliver a fait accompli. “We get the budget documents like a day before we’re supposed to vote on them,” the Deerpark Republican noted ruefully last week in an interview at the Times Herald-Record. And take the committee meetings at which legislators — theoretically, at least, in a SUNY Orange government text book — might be expected to debate the details and merits of the many pieces of legislation that churn through the capital each year. You know, public discussion of future laws.

“There’s no debate on anything,” Brabenec observed. “Everything is predetermined.”

And the usual predetermination for his party’s bills is that they will be “held,” a polite way of saying “buried.”

It’s tough to be an Assembly Republican, outnumbered roughly 2-to-1 by Democrats. But Brabenec, who recently kicked off his campaign for a second term, relishes being in an underdog conference that he said functions “like the Guardian Angels of the state” — advocates for reforms that suddenly have commanded attention in the wake of recent corruption convictions.

One of the Assembly Republicans’ recent crusades is a bill that would allow bills with at least 76 co-sponsors — that is, more than half the Assembly — to go to the floor for a vote, even if the chamber’s leaders would rather stifle them.

Addressing one of the most prominent reform issues, Brabenec said he opposes banning outside income for lawmakers and is “skeptical” toward the idea of limiting the amount, preferring instead that legislators report up front any potential conflicts of interest with their outside employment and recuse themselves if any arise. “I think if you’re honest about it, you’re not going to have a problem,” he said.

He also opposes Cuomo’s push to raise the minimum wage to $15, suggesting that doing so would encourage workers to remain in entry-level jobs rather than try to move up. “I don’t even want to focus on the minimum wage,” he said, shifting the discussion to New York’s shaky business climate and high taxes.

“We’re one of the least competitive states in the nation,” he said. “The cost of living is too high here, and the taxes are too high here.”


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