ALBANY, N.Y. -- In the span of less than two weeks, New York's former top legislative leaders were both convicted of all corruption charges. For good-government advocates, the situation in state government is nothing short of a crisis.
"I think the people of New York are beginning to get angry enough. I think some of that may have been reflected in the jury conviction now of the two top legislative leaders in the New York Legislature," said Barbara Bartoletti, League Of Women Voters Legislative Director.
Former state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and his son Adam were each found guilty Friday of all charges against them in their corruption trial. On Nov. 30, a jury convicted former state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on all seven counts.
The convictions of state lawmakers has become practically a routine in Albany. Once the jury announces its verdict, lawmakers and good-government groups alike push for favored ethics issues, and the press tallies up the latest vacancy in the Legislature, but the conviction of Skelos, so soon after the guilty verdict in Sheldon Silver's case, signals a new turn. In a statement, Gov. Andrew Cuomo once again called for the Legislature to pass new ethics measures and pledged to make it part of his agenda, stating:
"The convictions of former Speaker Silver and former Majority Leader Skelos should be a wakeup call for the Legislature and it must stop standing in the way of needed reforms."
Statement on Dean Skelos verdict: https://t.co/TWNyX4gB9K— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) December 11, 2015
"It starts with rank-and-file legislators, it starts with leadership from the governor and to be very blunt, the people of this state need to get motivated, to participate in their government and demand this of their elected officials," Bartoletti said.
For some state lawmakers, corruption is seen as a bipartisan problem without one solution.
"I don't think it's a smear on any particular party. To me, it's a situation where people have to act ethically and if they don't follow the laws they should be rooted out," said Sen. John DeFrancisco, R-Syracuse.
I's an issue, according to Deputy Senate Majority Leader DeFrancisco, that can't be solved with a new law.
"I don't what other existing laws are going to change people's attitude, but the convictions have certainly made people a little more careful about following those rules."
Whether Republicans in the Senate majority and Democrats in the Assembly can agree on major changes is unclear.
"Whether there's going to be any more ethics reforms, I don't know. But it's certainly going to be discussed."
At least one person would like to see some changes. The prosecutor in both the Skelos and Silver cases, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, posted this on Twitter:
How many prosecutions will it take before Albany gives the people of New York the honest government they deserve? @SDNYnews— US Attorney Bharara (@PreetBharara) December 11, 2015