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Avella issues plan to change Albany

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State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) said he is trying to reform Albany but is finding some resistance from his Republican colleagues during a visit last Thursday to North Shore Towers.

Avella told the crowd he is the sponsor of a bill to limit state legislators to four terms, or 16 years, in office because he said the restrictions will make lawmakers more accountable to their constituents.

Legislators now can run for as many two-year terms as they want, which Avella said means they are in campaign mode every other year.

“This is a big reason why there’s so much dysfunction in Albany — they’re always running for office,” he said of his colleagues. “There are some very arrogant people in Albany that I’ve got to know in three months.”

But the senator said there is “some interest in term limits.

“It’s going to be a fight to get it done, but I think there’s going to be movement on reform,” he said.

The freshman senator said he is also the author of a bill that would prevent legislators from collecting a pension plus their salary while in office.

He said 16 state legislators are “double-dipping” by using a loophole that allows them to retire for one day and then go back to work so they can collect a pension on top of their salary.

“People are entitled to their pension, but when you retire,” Avella said.

The senator told the audience at North Shore Towers that he also sponsored a bill to ban hydrofracking — a controversial practice in which companies drill for natural gas and use toxic chemicals to release it — in the state, saying the method would be harmful to the city’s drinking water that it gets from upstate.

“I think it’s a disgrace,” Avella said, saying the jobs that hydrofracking would create upstate is “not worth the threat to the water supply.”

Avella said there are GOP senators who “want the jobs and they don’t care about the environment.”

Getting back to reform, Avella told residents he cut up his state-issued “on official police business” parking placard and refused his lulu, or stipend given to state legislators for sitting on or chairing legislative committees.

Avella claimed the lulus are “the way the leadership controls your vote.

“The only people who should control my vote are you,” he said.

A North Shore Towers resident asked Avella if he was willing to sign on to the bill reclassifying co-op and condos as homes instead of rentals. Avella said he supports two identical bills that would do just that.

He said there is a general practice in Albany under which two identical bills are introduced with the only differences being the date when it will take effect.

Avella said one bill on the co-op issue is sponsored by Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone) and state Assemblyman Ed Braunstein (D-Bayside) and another by Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Little Neck) and a Republican sponsor in the Senate.

“I signed on to both bills just in case,” Avella said, saying the reclassification of condos and co-ops “should’ve been done decades ago.”

On the budget, Avella said the spending plan that was passed could have been better if it contained the so-called “millionaire’s surcharge,” which would have generated $4 billion in revenue, almost half of the state’s $10 billion budget gap.

Avella said he introduced a bill to reinstate a true “millionaire’s surcharge,” which would apply to anyone earning $1 million in income a year.

The millionaire’s tax that was not renewed this year applied to anyone making $200,000 in adjusted income, Avella said.

The senator said the state also should have legalized sports betting — an idea he first came up with during last year’s campaign — which he said would have added $30 billion to the state’s coffers from the city alone.

“All of this money is going to organized crime and they’re using it to fund all of their illegal activities,” he said.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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