Legislature's duty is clear

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed a reform agenda to clean up the political corruption oozing from the pores of the state Capitol. With no particular urgency, the Legislature has responded with measures that can be trumpeted as designed to clean up Albany while getting lost in legislative bickering.

Until now the Legislature has done nothing but gripe about its bad apples. Leaders like Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Republican Senate leader Dean Skelos and Independent Democratic Conference leader Jeff Klein have been in the money swamps for so long, they can't see the connection between routine muck and corruption.

The Legislature's duty is clear.

It must toughen penalties for corruption, give New York prosecutors greater power to investigate corruption, discourage corruption by making it harder for politicians to sell valuable decisions, and empower a watchdog to police the political money trail.

Specifically, the standard of proof demanded by New York's bribery statute is so high as to be insurmountable. The law must be rewritten to conform with the more effective federal statutes.

Failure to report bribery must be criminal.

New York's grand jury rules hobble state prosecutors when conducting investigations. They should be revised to give state probers powers that match those in the federal system.

Controlled by political bosses, the state Board of Elections has given up on enforcing New York's campaign finance laws. The state needs an independent monitor with full subpoena and prosecutorial authority.

Legislative slush funds, called member items, must be permanently abolished.

The regulations governing who can seek a party's nomination to run for office must be relaxed in order to diminish boss rule and the power to make inordinate demands.

The Legislature must get its nose out of financial decisions that belong properly to the governor. Most important right now, Silver, Skelos, Klein & Co. must set the broad legislative framework for the distasteful arrival of casino gambling and leave Cuomo to issue franchises and decide where gambling meccas are best located.

So much money will be at stake there's little doubt that lawmakers will undermine the credibility of a selection process, if not its integrity.

Cuomo's reform agenda awaits. Get it done.

-- The New York Daily News