Gunther supports outside-pay ban, leader term limits

Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther supports banning outside employment for state legislators, rather than restricting their private-sector income as Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed, and wants to limit how long the speaker and committee chairmen in the Assembly can hold those positions.

In an editorial-board interview at the Times Herald-Record last week, the Forestburgh Democrat endorsed the idea of a full-time state Legislature, one of a multitude of reform ideas under discussion as lawmakers returned to work this month with their two past leaders — Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos — freshly convicted of corruption.

“For me, it’s always been a full-time job,” Gunther said, noting that she often logs long hours on weekends for her Assembly position.

Gunther, who has represented Sullivan County and part of Orange for 11 years, opposes term limits for legislators, but agrees with Assembly Republicans that the tenures of the speaker and committee chairman should be limited. She said her reaction to the charges brought against Silver last year was, “How greedy!” And she voiced resentment that no upstate members and no women had a shot at replacing the speaker after he stepped aside.

She supports Cuomo’s proposal to raise the state minimum wage in increments to $15 an hour and his proposal to require paid family leave for workers.

Gunther said that improving access to mental health care would be one of her 2016 priorities. She also touted a new bill she introduced to prevent utilities from charging “termination fees” to cancel service for customers who have died.

She voiced mixed feelings about a pending bill, sponsored in the Senate by John Bonacic, R-Mount Hope, that would legalize physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients. Her ambivalence stemmed from her friendship with J.J. Hanson, a former aid to Gov. Eliot Spitzer and then Ulster County Executive Mike Hein who battled brain cancer and has crusaded against the legalization of assisted suicide.

 

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