Griffo presses governor for reform moves

State Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome. Provided photo

LOWVILLE — Since he was elected in 2007, state Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome, has proposed legislation to limit the terms in office for the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and comptroller positions almost every year.

“It has been my long-standing belief that, if you want to fundamentally change the culture of Albany, you need to limit the amount of time our elected officials are in office ... Imposing such limits will regularly shake up the makeup of state government, which will force change and reinvigorate the legislative process by bringing in new faces and fresh ideas,” he wrote to Gov. Kathleen C. Hochul Tuesday after she announced her support of limiting statewide elected positions to two consecutive terms of four years.

In 2016, Sen. Griffo wrote a similar letter to then Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo after he had expressed support for limit terms. Nothing came of that support for the idea, but he is again hopeful.

This time the senator also wanted to encourage Gov. Hochul to further push for “good governance” reforms.

“I’ve had that bill (for statewide officials) for a long time, but I didn’t want to be disingenuous by saying, even though I agree with it and I believe in it, I didn’t want to say just the governor should be limited to two terms. I believe members of the legislature should also be limited in their terms of office,” he said.

Sen. Griffo said that in the Legislature, the topic of term limits has often inspired bipartisan agreement: Almost everyone hates it.

“As you can imagine it’s not a very popular position to have in the Legislature. My colleagues aren’t patting me on the back saying, ‘Boy, what a great idea,’ you know?” he said. “I’ve come to this belief, because a lot of people criticize me and say ‘put it (the term limit) on yourself’ and I say, you know I would if I thought it would really work and I could set an example that you would really follow, I would. But until such time that the rules change, I will play by the rules that exist but I will fight to change those rules and those statutes.”

In order to take a bipartisan approach to term limit legislation, Sen. Griffo said he has moved two bills forward based on feedback he has been given over the years that term limits are a bad idea in an effort to gauge what may be most acceptable.

One bill changes terms to six years with a two-term limit, while the other would create a limit of four three-year terms.

The senator has been told by some colleagues that term limits, resulting in relatively “quick” turnover, will make it likely that staff members rather than the elected officials “will run the place” and that it takes years to get to learn the ropes, meet people and understand the full day-to-day job, implying that limits wouldn’t give them time to work after learning,

Sen. Griffo agreed that it takes time to adjust to the job but he said “you don’t need 25 years to do that.”

“What I believe is that you need dramatic change and that allows for a reinvigoration of the process because then you have continual infusion of new blood and new ideas, hopefully, and people not being worried about the next race ... in my opinion it frees them to a certain degree so they can focus on governing when you are elected instead of campaigning as a candidate,” he said.

He would like to see Gov. Hochul endorse term limits for legislators as well.

“While I am pleased that you also have chosen to embrace this concept,” Sen. Griffo wrote in his letter to the governor, “I urge you to move even further and to consider a number of other ideas that I have proposed that will bring about real change in state government.”

Embracing the potential momentum of being on the same side with the governor, Sen. Griffo asked her to consider six pieces of legislation he has introduced that he believes will improve Albany’s productivity from eight-year limits for legislative leadership positions like speaker and committee chairs to changes in mid-term succession procedures for statewide elected officials.

He also reached out about a “concept” bill that would allow any state resident to submit petitions to get initiatives on November ballots, request a referendum on proposed statutes or call for the removal of a state elected official from office through a process designed specifically for New York.

Sen. Griffo’s proposed bills intended for “cleaning up” some loose ends include one that would allow candidates for governor and lieutenant governor to run for office as a team starting in primaries rather than in the general election. Another bill would remove a phrase from state law that puts the lieutenant governor in power any time the governor is out of the state because, he said, “times have changed (with technology)... it’s not necessary any more. It’s archaic.”

Although he is not convinced the partisanship has changed much in the four months Gov. Hochul has been in office, he acknowledged that COVID-19 barriers make it challenging to gauge.

“I’m hopeful that we will not see a hyper partisan approach to governing in Albany but that remains to be seen,” Sen. Griffo said. “I welcomed and was pleased that she (Gov. Hochul) embraced this concept of term limits, I just hope now we can make it happen.”

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(2) comments


He’s joking, right?

Joseph Savoca

‘put it (the term limit) on yourself’ and I say, you know I would if I thought it would really work and I could set an example that you would really follow, I would. But until such time that the rules change, I will play by the rules that exist

Term limits for thee, not for me.

Just like "stop gerrymandering in New York State, but no word on Republican gerrymandering in other states".

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