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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Double trouble for NY Legislature's leadership

State Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), Long Island's

State Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), Long Island's highest-ranking legislator and majority leader of the Senate, is the focus of a federal investigation into allegations of corruption. Above, Skelos in July 2012. Photo Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

That the top leaders of both legislative majorities at the Capitol could be criminally charged during the same four-month period marks a glaring and unique Albany moment. It prompts the question of its significance.

Federal law enforcers are expected this week to file allegations against Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) -- while Assemb. Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan), the now-former speaker, continues fighting separate accusations in court.

There's food for debate as to whether today's state elected officials are more, less or equally prone to unethical or illegal behavior compared with their predecessors -- or if this convergence of cases simply reflects a heightened zeal of prosecutors.

Because so much is personality-driven, the endgame of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara will draw renewed discussion. New presidents like to assign their own people to posts as prominent as his, and the White House changes hands in early 2017.

In the end, what counts is whether the pending accusations hold up. A potentially drawn-out process begins. Other legislators have served for years while under a cloud. This can't be great for governance, but it may reflect the way things always were.

Some may also muse on whether New York really needs term limits on legislative leadership positions, as occasionally proposed, so long as Bharara is around.


CLINTON CATCH-UP: Two goals stated in candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton's relatively risk-free speech on criminal justice last week already seemed to be catching on before she announced for president.

One is to reverse the long-term trend toward mass incarceration in a nation with more than 2 million now in prison. Both progressives and conservatives formed an alliance called the Coalition of Public Safety, which supports that reversal. Americans for Tax Reform and the American Civil Liberties Union are involved, backed by right-wing and left-wing foundations alike.

Clinton also called for police body cameras to become "the norm everywhere."

Back in December, President Barack Obama called for their wider use in the wake of the Michael Brown and Eric Garner controversies. In fact, it was widely reported then that stock prices jumped for manufacturers of the equipment, including Taser, which is best known for stun guns and which earlier last year announced a supply deal with the Los Angeles Police Department.


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