From the NY Times:
TO read the news, one might think that the “perp walk” was a necessary rite in the career of a New York State legislator. Eighteen Albany lawmakers have left office as a result of criminal charges or ethical misconduct since 1999, according to the government-reform organization Citizens Union — a run that the organization appropriately terms a “crime wave.” There are many reasons to account for this dismal record, but one in particular concerns a practice that, at first glance, may seem endearingly quaint: the legislators are part-timers.
That has been the case since colonial times, when lawmakers traveled to the state capital just twice a year and had limited legislative responsibilities, for which they received part-time pay. But there is an important catch to the tradition. Because these “citizen lawmakers” work only a few days a week, they also are permitted to have lucrative day jobs — including anything from broad consulting or legal work to key roles at companies or organizations that may benefit directly from the legislative activity in Albany. And that’s a situation that, by its nature, invites potential conflicts of interest.
One result? In just the past five years, three current or former state senators and three current or former members of the State Assembly have been convicted of, or charged with, corruption that in some way concerned their outside employment.
To halt this unhappy trend, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed important reform legislation last summer that, in part, requires legislators to fully disclose their outside income and creates a new independent monitor to help investigate any breaches. That’s a good start, certainly. But if we are to get serious about uprooting corruption in Albany, the next step is to make service as a legislator a full-time job and ban outside sources of employment and income altogether for our public officials. Such a bill, indeed, was introduced last year in the State Senate, but it now languishes in committee. It’s time to resurrect and pass it.