Andrew Cuomo Really Likes the Idea of a Full-Time Legislature

Gov. Andrew Cuomo. (Photo: Spencer Platt for Getty Images)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo. (Photo: Spencer Platt for Getty Images) Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo threw his weight behind the idea of making legislating in New York State a full-time job, telling reporters today that barring outside income could clean up corruption in Albany.

Speaking a day after former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was convicted on corruption charges, Mr. Cuomo acknowledged there was “no appetite” in the State Legislature for such a sweeping change.

“I am intrigued by the full-time legislature because that would end the conflict of interest where legislators always get into trouble, it’s always the same thing,” Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, said in Harlem. “It’s in their outside income and are they getting paid as a legislator or are they getting paid as an attorney or as a dentist or as a consultant?”

“I say the way to end that is just have a full-time legislature and it’s very simple,” he continued. “You get one check from the State of New York as your salary and you are not allowed any outside income.”

Mr. Silver, the once powerful speaker, was convicted of orchestrating two separate bribery schemes that relied on him collecting hefty outside income as an attorney. Mr. Cuomo, a former state attorney general, bragged in the past that new disclosure laws he championed helped federal prosecutors catch Mr. Silver, though U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara has admonished Mr. Cuomo for abruptly shuttering an anti-corruption commission last year. (Mr. Bharara is reportedly investigating Mr. Cuomo’s handling of this commission, which Mr. Cuomo created.)

“You have seen so many of these cases. I did these cases as attorney general, right, I put people in jail as attorney general,” Mr. Cuomo said. “It’s always the same issue: outside income that blurs the line between public official and personal business and the cleaner solution would be full-time legislature, you get one check, no outside income period.”

A second solution, Mr. Cuomo added, would be a far stronger and complete disclosure of outside income.

State lawmakers, as Mr. Cuomo noted, are permitted to have outside income and the State Constitution protects the idea of a “citizen” legislator who does not practice politics full-time. He said members of the Assembly and Senate would strongly resist doing away with this concept.

“The Constitution speaks to a citizen legislature and a part-time legislature and there are a lot of peope who dont want full-time legislators and they dont want full-time politicians,” Mr. Cuomo said. “The Senate feels very strongly that the Constitution is about a citizen legislature and not a bunch of full-time, 24 hour, seven day a week politicians making laws.”

“I’m going to keep pushing but you need constitutional change to do it,” he said.

Andrew Cuomo Really Likes the Idea of a Full-Time Legislature