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EDITORIAL

2019 Full Of Oddities,

But Things Can Change

GREEN LIGHT LAW, BAIL REFORM ASTOUND

Governor Cuomo during his last visit to Otsego County, on May 22, 2014, during President Obama’s visit to the Baseball Hall of Fame. (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)

Many sages over the centuries have concluded: The future has not yet been written, (if it ever is). Whatever we’re going through, this too shall pass.

You may have seen the Associated Press dispatch the other day: The Government Justice Center in Albany is suing to prevent Governor Cuomo from getting a pay raise, saying Section 7, Article XIII of the state Constitution prohibits raises during an elected official’s term.

When he was last elected in November 2018, his salary was $179,000, and has since risen to $200,000. Jan. 1, it rose to $225,000 and on Jan. 1, 2021, it will rise to $250,000.

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul is also receiving raises, from $151,500 in 2019 to $210,000 in 2020 and $220,000 in 2021.

Section 7, Article XIII, reads, “Each of the state officers named in this constitution shall, during his or her continuance in office, receive a compensation, to be fixed by law, which shall not be increased or diminished during the term for which he or she shall have been elected or appointed.”
Seems pretty straightforward.

The AP dispatch reports, both Cuomo and Hochul declined comment.

Because the U.S. has been governed by laws for some 250 years now, we take the rule of law for granted. That our governor – our chief magistrate – appears to be operating outside the state Constitution is troubling, but “troubling” is coming to characterize a lot of what’s coming out of Albany these days.

Take the “Green Light” Law, which, as of Dec. 14, requires county clerk’s offices that operate DMV offices, like Otsego’s, to issue New York State driver’s licenses to undocumented residents.

The explanation is that some undocument residents are driving anyway, and this at least ensures a subset of those will learn to drive to a sufficient level to obtain a license, thus making New York State’s roads safer.

But the contradiction is hard to get over: Persons in the U.S. illegally are being issued legal documents.

Further troubling, when the successful applicant goes to the pay-window computer to be guided through the payment process, at one point the question, “Are you a U.S. citizen?” appears on the screen.

If the applicant checks the “yes” box, his or her information is automatically forwarded to
the Otsego County Board of Elections.

According to Mike Henrici, the county Democratic elections commissioner, all voter registrations are then sent to Albany for verification. Plus, potential fines and jail sentences should deter fraudulent voting. Let’s hope for the best.

Even more troubling are the “justice reforms” that, as Senator Seward notes on Page A4, will allow 90 percent of people arrested to go free.

Already, the New York Post reported the other day a suspect “sucker-punched” an officer and was freed without bail. More examples will no doubt be flowing forth in the weeks ahead.

Changes in how evidence is handled – for instance, requiring suspected cocaine or meth
seized in drug arrests to be confirmed within 15 days; now, the testing can take months –
will put many suspects, some facing serious charges, back on the street, and hinder how their cases are eventually resolved, if they can even be found and brought before the bar.

Add in the possibility of not just legalization, but muscular commercialization, of marijuana, and other measures – there are worrisome clouds forming on New York State’s horizon.

This is not to start the New Year on a down beat.

Swings between reform and rebalancing are part of not just U.S. history, but functioning democracies generally. Think “Peace, Love and Woodstock,” followed by the Reagan years.

To the degree any of the reforms are an overreach, they will be eventually corrected, although perhaps not in 2020.

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