Norris: Reforming Albany Must Be A Top Priority

A Column from Assemblyman Mike Norris (R,I-Lockport)

When I swore the oath of office to become your state assemblyman, I made a promise to represent our community with integrity and to fight for the interests and values of Western New York. Since day one, I have been working to reform our state government, as its brokenness and dysfunction has cost our community, our region, and individual New Yorkers for far too long.

I am so proud to have co-sponsored legislation that was enacted to require the forfeiture of public pensions for corrupt public officials in my first year. There is no greater violation an elected official can make than to violate the public trust for their personal gain, and by passing this legislation and then having it approved by the voters as a constitutional amendment this past fall, it sends a loud and clear message that corruption will no longer be rewarded with taxpayer-funded pensions.

Unfortunately, though, in the past month, former Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has resigned in disgrace and the former Speaker of the State Assembly, Sheldon Silver, was convicted of seven felonies for using his office for personal gain. With these recent events, there is no greater moment than right now to focus on reforming how Albany operates.

That’s why I call upon the governor and legislative leaders to allow floor votes immediately on two pieces of legislation which I am pleased to sponsor: the Public Officers Accountability Act and the State Contracts Sunlight Act.

The Public Officers Accountability Act places term limits on legislative leaders and committee chairs to avoid the severe accumulation of power in the hands of a few individuals and requires conflict of interest disclosure forms to be signed by the governor and legislators when disbursing state funding.

The State Contracts Sunlight Act, which I proudly introduced, protects taxpayers’ money by bringing accountability to state spending. My legislation would bring light to the billions of dollars of secretive state spending and ensure that any publicly-funded investment in job creation results in real, lasting jobs. We cannot let the corruption involved with the Buffalo Billion and other programs to continue. If there is nothing to hide, then let’s place all state contracts in a public database for open inspection and review to provide the most effective and transparent government possible.

I strongly believe that every item of state spending (which currently is way too high at a staggering $168.3 billion annually) should be clearly lined out in the budget or legislation, and these bills should be allowed proper time to be reviewed and vetted by rank-and-file lawmakers and the public before they come up for a vote. Further, it was very upsetting to me that this year’s budget was adopted (despite my overwhelming opposition) without any procurement reform – and without any procedural reform to clearly detail the billions of secretive spending contained in this year’s budget.

The time is now to bring reform to Albany so that the hardworking taxpayers of New York get the open and transparent government that they so rightly deserve. As your representative, I promise to keep fighting each and every day to shed light on these matters and to continue calling for real and fundamental reform at our state Capitol.

If you have any questions or concerns, or if I can be of any assistance to you with a state issue, please feel to contact my district office at (716) 839-4691.