The news stories about a broken New York State government have become too many to mention. In the last 15 years, we’ve seen the leaders of both houses of the legislature convicted of corruption, a governor and attorney general step down in sex scandals, and a comptroller convicted of profiting from his governmental office. That’s not even to mention the numerous “close associates” to elected officials convicted of defrauding the public trust. Instead of cleaning up and reforming a broken system, the State government’s response to this crisis is a less transparent, less independent, less democratic approach to government.
How does UJP propose fixing these problems? Our final 2020 campaign plank is holistic government reform, wherein we call for a return to co-equal branches to government, an overhaul of State Ethics laws and system, term limits, and ballot access reform.
Return to Democracy
The Legislature Needs Rescind the Governor’s Emergency Powers. When the COVID 19 pandemic crippled New York in March of 2020, there was little debate that it was the right time to provide emergency powers to the Governor to allow a fast, efficient, and clear response to the disaster at hand. But now more than 6 months later, our economy has been brought to its knees and with no legislative oversight, thousands of seniors have died in nursing homes. Today, we’ve had 1% or fewer positive tests daily statewide for more than a month, yet we still have one person making all governmental decisions. Forget about the fact that’s too much for any one person to bear, think about how dangerous this is for our democracy. This is no longer one party rule – its one man rule. Just because New York is the Empire State doesn’t mean it should be run by an emperor. We need to get New York functioning as a healthy democracy.
UJP urges the legislature to rescind the Governor’s emergency powers immediately and get back to work!
Real Ethics Reform and an Independent JCOPE. Remember not long ago when the Governor’s top aide was convicted of corruption by running a political campaign out of the Governor’s office? Despite this massive abuse of the public trust, absolutely nothing has changed. JCOPE, the public agency charged with enforcing ethics rules and seeking public integrity, has been rendered yet another extension of the powers of leadership as they seem to be more focused on keeping the powers that be happy than enforcing the law. For example, less than a year ago, a JCOPE Commissioner was contacted by Speaker Heastie after a heated exchange with the Governor. This followed an incident in which the Speaker’s Counsel reached out to a Commissioner on a supposedly confidential matter. For JCOPE to truly do their jobs, that entity should instead be led by an independently elected leader, who is empowered to hire their own staff and conduct their business without meddling from the very political leaders they could be investigating.
UJP proposes JCOPE be converted into an independent agency, similar to the Comptroller and Attorney General’s office, so as to ensure independence in ethics.
Reform Ballot Access
Broaden Opportunities for Ballot Access. New York is one of the few states in the US to allow Fusion Voting, meaning candidates can combine their vote totals on all ballot lines as one. This allows for a variety of political viewpoints to be expressed at the ballot box. More importantly, it allows a voter to support a candidate, rather than a Party. Recently, despite the Court throwing out the unconstitutional restrictions imposed on ballot access by the Campaign Finance Commission, the Governor and Legislature enacted new restrictions to ballot access in last year’s budget. To become a political Party in New York prior to 2019, an organization needed to gather 15,000 signatures for a candidate for Governor, then have that candidate get at least 50,000 votes in the gubernatorial election. While we won’t speculate as to the Governor’s intentions on these actions, in the 2020 budget, that threshold was raised, requiring 45,000 signatures to get on the ballot, then 130,000 votes in the election to become a Party. This excessive increase not only squelches independent political thought, it also would force Parties and organizations to run candidates for President, whether they want to or not.
The rise is so significant that only about half of the currently authorized Parties would meet the new requirements, based on 2016 outcomes. The net impact of these changes include:
- Reduction in options for voters to show their support for 3rd parties and independent bodies like UJP.
- Barriers so high no new parties can emerge
- Further consolidation of power to the 2 major parties.
UJP proposes the legislature repeal the actions in the 2020 budget making it harder to become a Party, instead reducing signature minimums to 10,000 statewide and 50,000 votes in the election.
New York State government is broken – but it’s not beyond repair. We have some of the brightest minds and most talented individuals in the world here in New York. Let’s bond together to get back to a democratic system of government, let’s fix our ethical disaster, and let’s make it easier – not harder – to participate in the electoral system!