Local pols react to Paterson reform proposals

State lawmakers representing Brooklyn hadmixed responses to Gov. David Paterson’s “State of the State” address, in which he set forth sweeping proposals to root out political corruption in state government.

Paterson’s proposals include setting up a system of public campaign financing similar to the one in New York City with matching funds.

Under Paterson’s proposal, lobbyists would be limited to contributions no larger than $250 and corporate contributions would be banned entirely.

The maximum contribution for any candidate for state office, including the governor, would fall from $55,900 to $1,000.

Paterson also proposed term limits to all state office holders. This includes the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, and comptroller to two four-year terms each, and members of the legislature to six two-year terms.

Paterson also wants to set a single independent ethics commission in Albany charged with enforcing the state’s ethics and campaign finance laws.

The new commission would have the legal authority to refer criminal and civil cases to the attorney general.

Currently, the attorney general has limited jurisdiction over political corruption cases.

“I’ve been pushing ethics reform like crazy since I got in office,” said Sen. Daniel Squadron, who represents Brooklyn Heights and parts of Carroll Garden.

Squadron said his goal remains to pass a law that increases the independence of an ethics commission that includes enforcement and disclosure.

Squadron said in general he is against term limits, but understands the frustration that would lead to such a suggestion where several state lawmakers have been in office over 20 years.

“There are a lot of proposals for reform and now the key is not to have proposals, but to have them become laws,” said Squadron. “I’d like it to be first thing we do (in session) this year.”

Sen. Velmanette Montgomery, whose district encompasses such neighborhoods as Downtown Brooklyn, Clinton Hill, Boerum Hill, Gowanus and Greenwood Heights, said financing of elections can be the most corrupting aspect of politics.

“The public financing of elections will help to ensure transparency and accountability and create more opportunities for people to run for elected office,” said Montgomery.

Assemblymember Hakeem Jeffries, whose 57th District encompasses Central Brooklyn, said he is opposed to term limits.

“Term limits, particularly with respect to the legislative branch, artificially restricts voter choice and dilutes representative democracy,” said Jeffries, who drafted legislation to stop the overturning of term limit laws in New York City.

“That said, where the public has enacted term limits by participating in the referendum process, the will of voters unless otherwise expressed should be respected,” he added.

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