As expected, the current scandal in Albany around state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has fanned the flames for more reform in the Legislature.

“Term limits would strike at a problem more pervasive than corruption (at the Capitol): legislative careerism,” says Tim Hoefer, executive director of the Empire Center for Public Policy.

Hoefer explains: “This combined with the power of legislative leaders, gives rise to an insular culture that makes individual lawmakers overly reluctant to advance new ideas, challenge entrenched special interests or demand higher ethical standards.”

In an opinion page article for a New York City daily, Hoefer offered ways to combat careerism: End the taxpayer-guaranteed public pension for lawmakers and other public officials and offer defined contribution plans such as the one provided by the State University of New York; eliminate the leader-controlled stipend that nearly three-quarters of the legislators now get; and equalize members’ staff budgets.

Meanwhile, after the disgraced Silver said he would quit as the Assembly speaker — effective Monday — Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle of Rochester was named as the interim leader through Feb. 10.

“He (Morelle) is a bright leader and enjoys splendid relations with members on both sides of the aisle,” said Democrat Francine DelMonte, who served 10 years in the Assembly. Earlier, she was a top assistant to veteran Assemblyman Joseph Pillittere, D-Lewiston, for 20 years.

DelMonte has many memories, of course, from her days on Capitol Hill. One thing she’ll never forget is how Silver was a kind of ‘lighting rod’ when she served in the Assembly. “In his rise to notoriety, he became someone of prominence the Republicans could play (off) against upstate Democratic candidates,” DelMonte recalled. Silver himself, as a New York City Liberal and Democrat, became an issue who hurt his own party members upstate.

Don’t write off DelMonte as a future candidate for an elective office. She’s active in community endeavors and keeps close tabs on local affairs and economic development issues. She learned a lot about Albany, serving in Pillittere’s office and then on her own.

© 2015 Niagara Gazette

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