Creating recall elections for state legislators in New York state is a horrible idea.
The idea has been proposed by Republican members of the state Assembly, who say recall elections have been shown to work in 19 other states. States with recall elections have removed more than a dozen state legislators in 36 separate recall elections. Supporters say a recall election for state legislators will give power back to the voters by giving them a way to get rid of corrupt politicians.
New Yorkers already have recall elections for the legislative branch every two years through the general election. There is no shortage of opportunity for the state's voters to show vote out ineffective or corrupt legislators every other year. Recall elections will have little to no effect in curbing corruption among state legislators.
In addition to being ineffective, recent history shines a light on the corrosive effect of recall elections. After his election in 2011, Gov. Scott Walker was the subject of a recall election in 2012 not because he was corrupt or had abused his power. He was the subject of a recall election because organized labor didn't like Walker's efforts to strip public unions of collective bargaining rights. The recall election ground state business to a halt for nearly a year before Walker emerged victorious.
Extend the analogy to New York, where organized labor holds much the same influence. What would stop organized labor from organizing recall votes against legislators who disagree push for cost-saving plans that will help taxpayers while hurting organized labor unions? Are we really to believe that couldn't, or wouldn't, happen in a state dealing with serious issues regarding public payrolls, public pensions and contracts at every level of government? Frankly, will having the threat of recall held over their heads prevent legislators from making tough or unpopular choices?
New York's government has a serious breach of public trust after the latest round of scandal. As the governor's office and legislators fumble around for the magic cure to all that ails New York politics, we say again the solution is simple.
Find more trustworthy candidates.
Accused of trying to bribe his way into the New York City mayor's race, state Sen. Malcolm Smith has been stripped of his leadership posts - but continues to serve in the state Senate.
The state has no legal mechanism to force Smith to resign, and Smith does have 79,500 reasons not to quit.
It's time to create a legal mechanism to force crooked politicians to do what they often times will not do themselves - step aside.
Of course, Smith and others accused of such crimes have a right to defend themselves in front of a jury of their peers and a right to be presumed innocent. Smith and politicians of his ilk have no right to hold on to their taxpayer-funded jobs in the face of such credible charges.
During a stop in Buffalo in early April, Gov. Andrew Cuomo called the Smith situation troubling before saying, "We have zero tolerance for any violation of the public integrity and the public trust."
The governor and the state Legislature should make sure zero tolerance actually means zero tolerance by crafting language that forces crooked politicians like Smith to resign, at least temporarily, their elected positions when accused of such odious crimes.