Cuomo, thinking aloud, weighs pros and cons of a full-time Legislature

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo, asked about whether paying lawmakers more may deter them from participating in bribery schemes, brought up another age-old Albany debate on Monday.

Should the state Legislature transition to full time?

State lawmakers are currently considered part-time workers. They’re allowed to supplement their $79,500 salary by moonlighting in the private sector, and many of them do. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate co-leaders Jeff Klein and Dean Skelos all hold second jobs with law firms, for example.

Taking questions from reporters in Manhattan Monday, Cuomo began to wonder aloud whether making the switch to full time is worth the trouble. He made the comments after unveiling a package of anti-bribery laws in the wake of a pair of bribery scandals that shook Albany last week.

Here’s what Cuomo had to say:

I think one of the big questions is should we have a full time Legislature. When you have a part-time Legislature, you pose many more potential conflicts. People are practicing law, they have clients, clients have an interest in government. They’re also a legislator; they’re also in business. The number of potential conflicts goes way up.

Now, a full-time Legislature is also problematic. We’re supposed to be a citizen Legislature. You have to pay people more. Some people think if they’re actually in Albany more, they’ll do more harm. But I think it’s one of the questions.

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  1. Currently there are 150 Assembly members and 63 Senators, all working part for full time wages. 19 million New Yorkers do not need 213 spokespersons to make the laws in New York. I propose that the body’s size be reduced to one senator per 1,000,000 citizens and one assemblyperson for every 350,000 persons who live in their assembly district.

    This would create a body of 19 senators, 57 assembly members, all working full time for a base salary that is 50% higher than what they now receive, which is about $80,000 per member. Their actions would be
    easier to monitor because of the reduced numbers and the prohibition against outside employment.

    OH, I forgot, each would have one confidential secretary but all the rest of the legislature’s employees should be civil service, merit system appointees, whose work is based upon what they know rather than who they know. Civil service rules governing working hours, pay scales, etc…
    would apply however, no union membership allowed. Can’t have the unions running the workings of the legislature.