On the ballot Tuesday: stripping corrupt politicians of their pensions

On the back of the ballot in county and local elections in New York on Tuesday is a referendum voters shouldn’t have to think too long about.

The proposal is an amendment to the state constitution that would allow a judge to revoke or reduce a public employee’s state pension if he or she has been convicted of a work-related crime. It’s the second of at least three propositions on the back of every ballot in the state, after the one about whether to hold a constitutional convention.

This proposal is the no-brainer outcome of a debate on ethics reform that raged and predictably fizzled in Albany in 2016, following the corruption convictions of both prior legislative leaders – former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos. Casting aside proposals to limit or ban outside income by lawmakers and other reform proposals, lawmakers finally agreed on yanking the pensions of corrupt politicians, but only after haggling over what officials it would apply to and whether to give the courts discretion.

New York already passed a law in 2011 to allow courts to cut or revoke pensions in such cases, but it didn’t apply to the public officials already in office at that time. A constitutional amendment was needed to affect their pensions as well.

The two lawmakers whose convictions motivated the proposed amendment have since had their convictions overturned, based on a subsequent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that made public corruption more difficult to prove. Federal prosecutors plan to retry both cases. Silver is scheduled to go on trial again in April, Skelos in June.

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    Chris McKenna

    Chris McKenna covers Orange County government and politics for the Times Herald-Record. He has been a reporter at the newspaper since 1999. Read Full
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