April 29, 2013Due to the recent arrests and indictments of a handful of New York state elected officials, Assemblyman Jim Tedisco, R-Glenville, has proposed a bill (A.6161) that would amend the state Constitution to give voters the ability to remove an elected official from office through a direct vote before his or her term has expired.
Under the proposed legislation, supported by the Assembly Republican Conference, the recall process could be initiated by 20 percent of the voters who participated in the election for that official by signing a petition to remove him or her from office and presenting that petition to the Secretary of State. Once signatures are certified, the governor would set a date for a recall election which would be conducted to determine whether or not the official in question will be removed from office.
"Today, we join the taxpayers of New York state in calling for a 'recall revolution' to return power to the people and empower them to police their elected officials. We believe that the most powerful voices in our representative democracy are the voters and they should be able to call for a redress of grievances by petitioning for the firing of elected officials who are derelict in their duties and just don't do their jobs," Tedisco said. "If you don't do your job or are irresponsible in your job, you lose your job. Why shouldn't we hold our elected representative to the same standard? We've tried the approach of having the Legislature police itself and we've gotten the keystone cops. Let's trust the people to help partner with us to clean up government."
Nineteen other states currently allow recall elections. "… As we see the activity taking place, it seems week after week after week another story, another elected official," Tedisco said. "If there was ever a state that needed recall and should be number twenty … New York state should be that twentieth state."
Tedisco cited the example of Pedro Espada, former Senate Majority Leader and vice president Pro Tempore for Urban Policy of the Senate, who did not report his fundraising to the Board of Elections. "A part of what we will be presenting very shortly, with a whole package, is a law that says there will be a penalty if you chronically do not report to the Board of Elections where your donations are coming from."
Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb, R-Canandaigua, noted that more proposals are on the way. "For instance, I have a bill for term limits for leaders, I think we should restrict the limits and the terms of committee chairs in the Legislature."
Both, Assemblywoman Annie Rabbitt, R-Greenwood Lake, and Assemblyman Ray Walter, R-Amherst, released statements in support of recall elections.
"I fully believe that not until every state lawmaker or statewide official, takes responsibility for themselves and serves the public in an ethical way, will we see true widespread change in the broken status quo in Albany," Rabbitt said. "I believe that allowing for public recall will help not only put officials on notice but also give a stronger voice to the people. With so many officials in violation of the public trust, we must do something to let the people know that not every official is corrupt, and that we stand with the people of our state."
Walter had similar thoughts on the proposal and said, "Our objective should always be to empower the people that we represent and remind them that the power lies not with the elected, but with the electorate. The constituents of the two legislators who are currently under indictment deserve the opportunity to have new representation instead of being in limbo for years to come. We should employ the people in assisting us to combat corruption, not another government bureaucrat that contributes to the culture of Albany."
Professor Joseph Zimmerman, a political science professor at the University at Albany, said he is "strongly in favor," of recall elections. He said they are a "device that would help to restore public confidence in officials."
Bill Mahoney of the New York Public Interest Research Group said NYPIRG does not have a position regarding recall elections but thinks they could be considered in the future. He said campaign finance laws need to be corrected before recall elections become a serious consideration.
"We have to restore public confidence. We cannot continue to have headlines … in terms of elected officials in state government being looked at and laughed at by the very people we represent," Kolb said.