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Klein, breakaway Democrats have high hopes for ethics reform in Albany amid corruption

Sen. Jeff Klein at the Tax-Free NY unveiling in 2013.

The Independent Democratic Conference is calling for state ethics reform once again. In past years, the group of breakaway Democrats have proposed a new system for campaign contributions and limits on outside income.

Now, the IDC is hoping the conviction last week of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver will lead to change in next year's legislative session.

While in Syracuse recently, Sen. Jeff Klein of the Bronx says he thinks now may be the time for some big changes in Albany -- like upending the entire nature of how state senators and assembly members have done their job, which has been a part-time position for almost 200 years.

“I think we need a full-time legislature, with commensurate reimbursement,” Klein says. “The salary would have to increase. There is a commission in place now that is going to determine that before the end of the year.”

If lawmakers don’t have outside jobs and outside income, Klein says there will be fewer opportunities for conflict of interest.

“It also is a form of term limits,” Klein said. “Maybe you won’t have people serving in government 20, 30, or 40 years, because they need to get out to support their families in a bigger way; or a choice they may make to get back in business.”

He notes many lawmakers, including himself, have already given up outside income in the wake of a series of scandals in Albany. Klein and the IDC support a reform package that also includes changes in election law. And he believes the conviction of Silver may be the tipping point.

 "I don’t think it’s impossible for us to get this done. I think now is the time to do it,” Klein said.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.