Government Is In Time Of Change, Some Of It Good

Having one-party rule in Albany worries us a little in terms of checks and balances, but holy cow, things sure are getting done.

This week, Democrats in the Legislature have impressed us with the quantity of their output — it’s hard to keep up with it all — but also with the quality.

We were particularly glad that one of the first bills both the Assembly and Senate passed would close the “LLC loophole,” making the $5,000 limit on corporations’ campaign donations apply to limited liability companies as well. The bill would also make LLCs name anyone with a membership interest, and his or her membership portion. The politicians who once fought to keep this loophole open, because it helped fill their campaign coffers, have faded away. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has a back-and-forth ethics record, has jumped on the bandwagon and supports the reform.

Have we seen the last of anonymous, unlimited donors pulling politicians’ strings? Probably not, but this move will probably scare a whole lot of them off.

It was one of seven election reform bills both legislative houses passed to the governor’s desk last week. We agree with all of them, including early voting, same-day registration, enhanced absentee ballot access, preregistering 16-and-17-year-olds, letting registration follow you if you move in-state, and consolidating federal and state primaries. We do agree with Republicans and the New York State Association of Counties that the state should have delayed implementing the merged primary and helped counties pay for the expenses of that and early voting, but we are still glad the bills passed.

Our elected leaders seem to be an unusual appetite for enacting good-government rules these days. We were shocked to hear Cuomo propose, in his State of the State speech, to make New York’s Freedom of Information Law apply to his office and the Legislature, something those powers have resisted since FOIL was enacted in the 1970s.

Albany Democrats’ unity and high-road-taking may fall apart, like it did the last time they controlled all three of the Capitol’s power centers. Maybe they have learned their lesson this time, but how much would you bet on that?

Nevertheless, we’re in the middle of a particular “moment in time,” as the governor said in his State of the State speech last week, quoting Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins. If New York’s leaders get it right now, when they are so incredibly unified and productive, they can set rules that make it easier for future lawmakers and state employees to be good, and harder for them to be corrupt. They can set election patterns that increase voter turnout and thereby strengthen the voice of the people to those they elect. None of this is partisan — or at least it shouldn’t be.

Hopefully, after making a few of these improvements, lawmakers will see it wasn’t so hard and will go further down a virtuous path. Wouldn’t that be nice?

We are living in a time of change in the way government works in America. We are pleased to see that some of that change is good.