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Sen. Joe Griffo fights for ethics reform with proposed term limits

Sen. Joe Griffo speaking at the New York State Senate.

In the wake of the arrest of former New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on corruption charges, many legislators and the governor have floated proposals for ethics reform. Republican State Senator Joe Griffo (R-Rome) is pushing for a change he started fighting for even before this latest scandal -- term limits.

One of the things that many state elected officials have focused on in their ethics reform proposals is how to regulate legislator's outside income. After all, it was the money Sheldon Silver received from his work for law firms that led to the allegations he took kickbacks and bribes. Plus, being a state assembly member or senator is technically a part-time job.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed full disclosure of outside income and other democrats have called for a ban on it all together.

Senator Joe Griffo agrees that a variety of ethics reform need to be looked at.

"I think we need to look at everything and discuss everything," Griffo said. "...from the disclosure aspect, the transparency aspect, from the limits on outside income to stiff penalties for those who violate the law -- such as pension forfeiture."

Griffo says if legislators are really serious about ethics reform they have to consider term limits. Ideally, he would like to see all members of the assembly and senate limited in the time they can serve. California, for example, limits its legislators to 12 years in office. 

Griffo's first priority is setting limits on how long a legislator can hold a leadership post. The Republican says it would not only help prevent corruption, but would be better for governing.

"I think when you look at the structure now, and you look at the power that you can amass and how you really can insulate yourself as a result of that, I think it not only does a disservice to the operation of government but also to being open to new ideas and new policies," Griffo said.

He also says making legislators full time, and paying them as full time employees, is not what's best for New York State.

"To talk about a full time legislature, I think, is a disservice to people. That is not the answer. That actually is going to be more problematic, and all you need to do is look at the Congress and how it functions," Griffo said.