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State Officials Were Not Elected To Hide From Tough Issues

A lengthy thumbs down to the state Legislature for punting, again, on hard decisions.

First, there is the continuing stalemate on legalizing sports betting in the state. There are very valid concerns raised by Republicans and Democrats about whether sports gambling would hurt the state, and we note Assemblyman Andrew Goodell’s very valid question about whether legalized sports betting is even constitutional in New York state. If sports betting isn’t going to happen, the legislature should simply say so and move on. Instead, the issue continues lingering while legislators waffle.

The same goes with legalization of marijuana. There are valid arguments both for and against proposals to legalize marijuana, but at this point the issue has been the subject of more punts than January’s Super Bowl.

The worst punt, however, comes in the realm of campaign finance reform. Not only can’t the legislature come to any sort of agreement, now the ball has been taken out of the hands of the people elected to write such legislation and placed into the hands of a commission that would be charged with creating a bill. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the Assembly speaker and Senate majority leader each pick two members, then each Republican minority leader picks one. The ninth member is collectively chosen by Cuomo and the legislative leadership. If that ninth member can’t be agreed upon, the commission will not form.

Here’s the worst part. If the commission is formed, it must make its recommendations by Dec. 1. If the state Legislature doesn’t act on it by Dec. 22, it automatically becomes law. This is exactly the process that resulted in legislators getting hefty pay raises starting Jan. 1. It’s galling that poor process resulted in pay increases to suddenly feckless legislators who don’t want to put up or shut up on issues of public concern.

The process Cuomo and legislative leaders agreed upon to come up with a campaign finance reform bill is horrendous. Campaign finance is an important issue that shouldn’t be left to a politically-selected committee to write behind closed doors.

Cuomo and state legislators were elected to take on tough issues, not hide from them. The state’s continued waffling leaves a bad taste in everyone’s mouth, regardless of one’s position for or against these issues.

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