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This Elephant Won’t Go Away

This Elephant Won’t Go Away

For the longest period of time there has been an elephant in the room of every business establishment and the halls of Congress that the world outside has paid little attention to. It’s called sexual harassment. And oddly enough, as a result of the Harvey Weinstein scandal the issue is now front and center throughout America.

It takes a major news development to do what isolated stories were unable to do. It has given women the courage to come forward and tell the public about conduct that has undermined their ability to work and has created unlimited stress in their lives. Since the Weinstein story became public it has unleashed a torrent of accusations which have reached some of the highest offices in our country.

As far back as I can remember, certain conduct by employers and superiors was known in many offices but never reported. No one wants to be the bad guy by reporting a coworker’s conduct so in the end bad deeds remained a secret. I still remember a case involving a secretary to a bank officer who complained frequently about his conduct in his private office. Eventually an insurance company paid a settlement and the now-deceased banker continued to work for the bank.

No one can say that these stories of abused employees are exaggerated because they have been reported coast to coast and are all slightly different, but all add up to unacceptable conduct for people in power in both the private and public sectors. The grounds of the U.S. Congress are not exempt from these issues. The case of U.S. Congresswoman Jackie Speir (D-California) is just one of many that are bubbling to the surface. She recounts actions by a senior staffer who crossed over the line and with ugly conduct.

The Congress member didn’t sit back and do nothing. She reported the incident and aggressively sought a $500,000 appropriation for sexual harassment training for staffers and members. You can guess what happened next. When the federal budget was adopted there were no moneys set aside for the program. Her latest calls for Congressional action will no doubt be ignored as well.

Many businesses have come to recognize that workplace conduct can be a major headache as having to settle claims can be embarrassing and costly. They have distributed workplace policy rules to all their employees, which is required by law and have sent a strong message about what they expect from them. There is no doubt that other employers, to their peril, will brush off the issue assuming it will never rear its head.

The responsibility to deal with workplace harassment isn’t just on some public or private employer. There is a family responsibility to deal with these issues as well. If you have daughters, they should be encouraged to report workplace conduct that is improper. If you have sons, it is good to remind them that society is no longer willing to ignore these issues. Either way that elephant is going to be in the room a long time and bad conduct will no longer be tolerated.

 

To read the entire article in the Long Island Weekly, click here.

No Need to Open Up NY’s Constitution

No Need to Open Up NY’s Constitution

By: Hon. Arthur ‘Jerry’ Kremer

New York State voters need many things to improve their quality of life. They want better-paying jobs, affordable housing to keep our young talent from fleeing to other states, better roads to keep us safe and solutions to other critical needs.

What New Yorkers do not need, however, is a constitutional convention.

A Nov. 7 ballot would start in motion the calling of a constitutional convention in 2019. Ballot amendments normally don’t get much attention, which is why this year voters should turn over their ballots and cast a no vote on a constitutional convention. Besides being costly, voters should know that the last thing the state needs is another political gathering that would look like a copy of a state legislative session.

There are two major ways to change our state constitution. One is by a required vote every 20 years to decide whether to call for such a meeting. The second is for the State Legislature to pass ballot amendments, which voters cast votes on. There have been only two successful constitutional conventions since 1894, and both were called when the nation was in crisis. There might be a lot of political angst today about how our leaders are dropping the ball, but there is no legitimate reason for a state convention in the next two years.

New York’s constitution is a pretty good document. It protects the right to privacy, bars discrimination, preserves the environment, supports a series of worker protections and ensures help for the needy through medical care, homelessness and educational opportunity.

Somehow well-meaning convention supporters think that in four months, a 200-page document will create a new New York, free from crime, corruption, dirty air, complex laws and burdensome taxes.

The system works! In the past 200 years, voters have amended the state constitution more than 200 times. All of those changes were made at the suggestion of the legislature.

The last vote on a convention for our state took place in 1997, and it was soundly defeated. At the time of that defeat, respected groups that would have favored holding a convention urged its defeat and suggested that the pro groups begin a 20-year campaign to create a real agenda so that future voters would have a choice of whether to vote up or down. Twenty years later, there has been no real educational campaign, just random calls for reform by the “yes” side.

In 1967, I was a member of the Assembly and attended the 1967 convention as an observer. I saw what a fruitless effort it was to get the leaders of the convention to do anything other than protect the status quo. But don’t take my word for it. The groups opposing a convention this year are about as diverse as you could imagine. The long list of opponents, to name a few, includes the Conservative Party, the right-to-life movement, Planned Parenthood, civil liberties unions, the Sierra Club, every major union and the Adirondack Council.

There are also plenty of other reasons why a convention will not be free of politics. A person who wants to run as an independent delegate needs 3,000 signatures to get on the ballot, which means that a lot more are needed to stand up to any challenge. If you run as a major party candidate, you need only 1,000 signatures. That means any candidate backed by a political party is heavily favored to win.

There is no doubt that our political climate is toxic. That is no reason to accept a bundle of vague political promises by supporters with a real risk that the outcome won’t be a disaster.

Jerry Kremer is a former State Assembly member and is the co-author of “Patronage, Waste and Favoritism: A Dark History of Constitutional Conventions.”

 

To read the full article on Newsday, click here.

 

 

Constitutional Convention

Constitutional Convention

 

By: Hon. Arthur ‘Jerry’ Kremer

Every 20 years New York voters are asked to decide whether there should be a constitutional convention. The last time voters had a choice of whether to hold a new convention was in 1997 and the idea was rejected by a large margin. By law, if a convention is approved, there would be another vote in 2018 to elect delegates, who would serve in 2019. It is important that a vote for a new convention be defeated and there are plenty of reasons why…The last convention was in 1967. There were many ideas discussed but the majority were the same topics that the state legislature had been considering for many years. From personal experience, I was a visitor to the 1967 event and many of the delegates were elected officials who were anxious to get two public salaries in one year and it padded their pensions with little to show for it. There are many outside elite groups who are anxious for there to be a new convention. Some would like to abolish the State Senate and have a one-house legislature. Losing the influence of the Senate and its Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-Huntington) would be a serious blow to Long Island. It would be good for New York City, but the suburbs have its own needs and we have to fight to protect them. We have some of the best public schools in our two counties who do a great job educating our children. Regrettably, there are a number of groups who are anxious to shift money away from public schools and spend it on charter schools only.

Our current constitution protects our state parks from over development. There are quite a few developers who are anxious to have the protections that are in the current constitution removed so that they can develop golf courses and luxury housing on precious parkland. All of the important environmental groups have announced their opposition to holding a convention. It is no secret today that the amount of money being spent in campaigns around the nation is mind-boggling. Unknown front groups get involved in local election issues and their dollars can influence the outcome of any election. Next year we will have statewide and Congressional elections, which will attract a lot of attention. While voters are concentrating on major contests, slates of convention delegates could be elected who have no stake in the future of Long Island and here is a simple statistic. In the past 100 years over 200 amendments have been adopted that were approved by the state legislature, without the need for a convention. As an example, this November voters will decide whether to take away the pensions of public officials who commit crimes related to their official position. The system does work and there is no need to spend $100 million on more on an event that is a carbon copy of what the current legislature does. This year more than ever your vote will make a big difference in the future of Long Island and our state.

The smart vote is a “No” vote on a Constitutional Convention.

Former Assemblyman Arthur “Jerry” Kremer is a well-known political figure on Long Island. He served in the State Assembly for 13 terms and headed the powerful Ways and Means Committee. He was the sponsor of many consumer laws including the Automobile Lemon Law. He is seen frequently on News 12 where he provides political commentary. He is a Trustee of Hofstra University and is involved with many local charities. He is a partner at the law firm of Ruskin Moscou Faltischek in Uniondale and is President of Empire Government Strategies.

 

To read the article on PBA on Patrol, click here.

The Split Personalities Of The Politicians

The Split Personalities Of The Politicians

Everybody is aware that the Republican Party at both the national and state level is in disarray.

The Congressional leadership is paralyzed and unable to pass any meaningful laws and recent polls show that the President is the leader of his own party, which is of no comfort to the Republicans. But, are the Democrats in any better shape?

The late Governor Al Smith once lamented that “I don’t belong to any organized political party, I am a Democrat.” For the past 75 years, the Democrats around the country have proven that even when in power they have the same problems that the Republicans are experiencing.

Just like there are two Republican parties today, there are also two Democratic parties. The Republicans are split between the fast disappearing moderates and the emerging ultra conservatives. The Democrats are split between the moderates and the left wing.

The year 2018 promises to be the year when the Democrats at the very least could get control of the House of Representatives. The fact that 50 Republican House members come from districts that voted for Hillary Clinton gives Democrats a chance to take control of the House. But are they capable of really pulling it off?

I respect the issues that candidate Bernie Sanders raised in his primary fight against Hillary Clinton. Many of those issues were embraced by Donald Trump and helped him get elected. But maybe it’s time for Bernie Sanders to get off the stage and allow younger and more attractive candidates to emerge who can carry the party message.

On almost every issue that comes up in Washington the Democratic left and the center are in complete disagreement. Most Democrats favor giving protection to the Dreamers, who are here because they were brought here at any early age. But all of a sudden the left wing says they don’t want money spent on border security. Is there any issue that the Democrats can all agree upon? I doubt it.

One interesting test in November is whether the Democratic Party in Nassau County is strong enough to elect their candidate Laura Curran to be the next County Executive.

There are more enrolled Democrats than Republicans so that is a starting point. Corruption has cast a dark cloud over the Republican Party. But this is what the politicians call is an off year with light voter turnout and Republicans have a history of getting their supporters to the polls.

Whether it’s at the national or local level, Democrats have the same problems that the Republicans have. And that means that the voters of this country should truly worry about what our future will look like.

Jerry Kremer was a state assemblyman for 23 years, and chaired the Assembly’s Ways and Means Committee for 12 years. He now heads Empire Government Strategies, a business development and legislative strategy firm. 

Let’s Not Mess With The State Constitution

Let’s Not Mess With The State Constitution

Every Election Day is important, and Nov. 7 is no different. There aren’t a lot of high-profile contests, but voters will still be choosing village mayors and town and county officials. A major issue, which has escaped voters’ attention until now, is the vote to decide whether New York state should have a new constitutional convention.

The last convention was held in 1967, and its work product was voted down by large numbers. In 1977, another convention vote failed. Around the country since 2010, voters in 11 states have rejected convening rewrites of their constitutions. It is my strongest hope that this measure will be soundly defeated on Election Day.

 Over the past four months, I have traveled around the state speaking to numerous groups, and I’ve taken part in nine debates. No one has offered to pay me, nor would I have accepted any money. I strongly believe that a constitutional convention would be a waste of taxpayer money, and would be nothing more than a carbon copy of a regular legislative session. A 2019 convention, if approved this year, would mean double pay for the elected officials who attend and double pay for the lobbyists who would love to get on the gravy train.

 

As a member of the State Assembly in 1967, I took the time to watch the convention at work. It was dominated by elected officials from every level of government. It generated some good ideas, but it was manipulated into one proposition that failed. There’s no reason to believe that another convention now would have a different result.

The current Constitution runs to 200 pages. It protects our parks, our jobs, our housing and our quality of life in hundreds of ways. There are two legal procedures to amend it. The State Legislature can do it, or we can elect delegates. Over the past 100 years, the Legislature has amended the Constitution more than 200 times, in many significant ways. This year, thanks to the Legislature, voters will also be asked whether elected officials who commit crimes related to their public office should lose their pensions.

A small handful of well-meaning groups are supporting a convention because they think the current Constitution should be completely overhauled. The average convention runs for about four months, and if you think the Constitution can be totally remodeled within that time frame, I have some swampland to sell you in Louisiana. The groups that oppose the idea are a mixture of every flavor of politics, including the Conservative Party, Planned Parenthood, the National Rife Association, the American Civil Liberties Union and numerous environmental groups.

The union movement has spent lots of money to oppose a convention, for good reasons. Pensions for active and retired members are protected by current law, so union leaders are looking out for their members by opposing a convention. Its supporters have criticized the involvement of unions, as if their money comes from some suspicious source, which is a cheap shot.

The supporters of a convention truly believe that there is no chance that it would be hijacked by groups with carloads of out-of-state money. But thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling, in the Citizens United case, that the government cannot restrict independent political expenditures, there are unlimited funds being spent around the country to interfere with state laws. The proponents of a convention can’t guarantee us that it would be free of outside interference, so why bother?

New York last voted on whether to have a convention in 1997. The idea was soundly defeated because of the expense and the public’s desire to leave well enough alone. The estimated cost of a convention is $50 million to $100 million, and could go higher.

The cost notwithstanding, I would strongly support it if I thought it could be a meaningful event with great results, but that just isn’t the case. That’s why I’ve traveled around the state urging a “no” vote. It’s the wrong time in history to turn our state upside down.

Jerry Kremer was a state assemblyman for 23 years, and chaired the Assembly’s Ways and Means Committee for 12 years. He now heads Empire Government Strategies, a business development and legislative strategy firm.