Week of April 19 - April 25, 2019 • EAGLE NEWS MEDIA-- A SECTION OF HOME REPORTER AND BROOKLYN SPECTATOR • 13
t appears the anger management courses Brooklyn Democratic state Sen. Kevin Parker underwent a few months ago failed to curb his tendencies to fly out of control and become physically threatening. Late last year, Parker on his social media account encouraged the spokesperson for the Senate Republicans to commit suicide. In the wake of bipartisan outrage, he agreed to take an anger management course and initially apologized for his inappropriate tweet. A week or two later, he withdrew his apology, but did I am told go forward with an effort to address his anger issues — issues that have come up off and on over the years. In fact, several years back, local state Sen. Diane Savino was on the receiving end of his menacing behavior in a private Democratic Senate conference. The argument became so heated that
several Senate sergeants at arms who in their official capacity have the authority to detain needed to be called into the room. Last week, Parker was at it again with what observers described as a loud and angry outburst against freshman state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi over her public statements that she was dissatisfied with some members over their role in a heavily criticized budget process. Biaggi, the granddaughter of legendary Rep. and police officer Mario Biaggi, grew up in the rough-and-tumble world of Bronx politics and had no interest in backing off. Parker, as the disagreement escalated, apparently became more aggressive and, in the words of some, menacing. Now, questions have arisen relating to the earlier incident and the failure of the Senate Ethics Committee to investigate. As if there
was not enough drama, it turns out that Biaggi is the chairperson of the Ethics Committee. Although she made a statement in the Democratic conference that would indicate that she did Parker a favor at the time, she has since denied that she provided special treatment. Is Albany no more than a breathing, living example of the French proverb “plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose“ (“the more things change, the more they stay the same”)? After spending a 40-year career working in the state legislature, I have seen more than a few instances that would make me think that is the case. Of course, I do not claim to be non-partisan. Yet, I think it is clear that several different actions need to be taken immediately with the hope that they will send a more permanent message. The problem in Albany is
COMMON SENSE BY JERRY KASSAR
The problem in Albany is not the ethics rules on the books, it is the culture that elects individuals who have no interest in following the laws and rules.
not the ethics rules on the books, it is the culture that elects individuals who have no interest in following the laws and rules. Parker needs to undergo a full ethics review. He continues to show violent tendencies and his inability to control himself within the inner workings of a legislative conference creates a whole other set of problems. Inasmuch as the Ethics
VOTE OF CONFIDENCE
n today’s polarized political landscape, we seldom see major legislation sail through with bipartisan support, especially not when it will fundamentally alter the status quo. And yet that is what happened on January 14 of this year. On the second full day of the new legislative session in Albany, a comprehensive package of voting reforms was passed. Some of the floor votes had final tallies of 44-17 and 56-5. After years of attempting to advance bills to revamp New York’s antiquated election laws, Democrats put forth a comprehensive slate of changes and, in large part, both sides worked together to enact them into law. These weren’t controversial proposals. They have had widespread support across all political
affiliations and have been proven to be effective in other states. Citizens of the Empire State deserve to have elections that are accessible, efficient and equitable. Rather than being one of only 12 states in the nation without early voting, busy New Yorkers will now have the option of visiting their polling site to cast their ballots on not just one day, but instead on one of 10, including two full weekends. For a state with some of the worst voter turnout numbers in the country, who wouldn’t want to shift to a system that has been proven to engage more citizens to participate in one of our most important rights? Whereas we were the only state last year to hold our federal and state primaries on different days — months
apart no less — we will now enjoy having them on a single day. Who could argue with scrapping a process that confused voters, depressed turnout and cost the state millions of dollars unnecessarily?
For a state with some of the worst voter turnout numbers in the country, who wouldn’t want to shift to a system that has been proven to engage more citizens to participate in one of our most important rights? New Yorkers who moved within the state would often find out on election day that since they hadn’t submitted a voter registration form with their new address at least 20 days in advance, they wouldn’t be allowed to
Committee chairperson might need a closer look as a result of public statements, it would make sense if, even only temporarily, Biaggi be suspended as chairperson. Of course, inasmuch as the most recent incident involved her, it would not make sense for her to be looking at Parker regardless. If Parker is shown to have crossed a formal ethical line, the Senate should impose strong penalties which should at a minimum result in a removal of his seniority, possible loss of staff and certainly a return to a new set of anger management classes. If Biaggi is shown to have buried an ethics investigation intentionally, she should be removed from the committee, prevented from chairing any committee over the rest of this term and
possibly, depending on the nature of her intervention (she had a formal complaint which she failed to act upon), be looked at for additional sanctions. It is worth noting that until the Democratic Party took over the Senate in 2019, the Ethics Committee was the only equal committee in the Senate — there were just as many Democrats on it as Republicans. Due to the nature of the committee, this was a longstanding tradition. The state Assembly committee still has an equal number of Democrats and Republicans. In light of all that has happened, I think it would be logical for the Senate to reconstitute the membership of its Ethics Committee so that there are equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans.
MATTER OF FACT BY JAY BROWN
vote. The new law that will allow every voter in this circumstance to transfer their registration easily is about as obvious a commonsense fix one can come up with. While proposals to lower the age to vote have been met with mixed reactions, Democrats moved ahead with a voting reform that everyone can get behind. Sixteen and 17-year-olds applying at the DMV for a driving permit or driver’s license will now be able to pre-register to vote. Once they turn 18, without any further bureaucratic processes, they’ll automatically
be able to begin participating in the process that provides us all with a say in our government. Also passed were bills to amend the state’s Constitution to allow same-day voter registration and no-excuse absentee voting. These measures will require the following legislature to pass them again so that the process can move forward to create constitutional amendments ensuring these rights. It’s particularly important to keep this in mind when voting next November, as these changes will not become law until further legislative action following the 2020 election. I’m not sure why, under Republican leadership,
these reforms went nowhere in the state Senate for years, but at this point, I don’t much care. The newly Democratic-controlled majority didn’t simply ram through legislation. They passed it with most of their Republican counterparts voting aye, as well. There are plenty of issues those of us on either side of the political spectrum will disagree on, but there’s no reason not to work together where there is general agreement as to what will most benefit New Yorkers. And all of our elected officials, regardless of party, can play a role in that. We’re all on equal footing where common ground exists.
FOR MORE NEWS, VISIT WWW.BROOKLYNREPORTER.COM