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Hochul proposes term limits, outside income ban for statewide elected officials

Gov. Kathy Hochul speaking at a podium in a classroom
Office of the Governor
Gov. Kathy Hochul

Gov. Kathy Hochul will propose term limits for statewide elected officials in New York, and seek to ban outside income for those individuals while in office, she said Monday.

Hochul plans to announce those proposals formally as part of her State of the State address, which is scheduled to be delivered in Albany on Wednesday afternoon.

"I want people to believe in their government again,” Hochul said in a statement. “With these bold reforms, we will ensure New Yorkers know their leaders work for them and are focused on serving the people of this state.”

Those changes would have to be done through an amendment to the state constitution, which is no easy task.

An amendment to the state constitution requires a vote of approval from two consecutive sitting Legislatures. In other words, it has to be passed by the current Legislature, and then again after the next election. Then, it goes on the ballot for voters.

Canisius College Political Science Professor Robert Klump provides perspective on Governor Hochul's call for term limits on statewide offices.

There hasn’t been a lot of appetite in the state Legislature to adopt term limits in recent years. But Hochul’s proposal could evoke a different reaction.

Hochul’s plan would only affect the four statewide elected officials in New York: the governor, the lieutenant governor, the state attorney general, and the state comptroller. Those officials would be limited to two consecutive four-year terms.

She’s also proposing a ban on outside income for those officials, except for academic positions, which would have to be approved by a state ethics board.

The ban on outside income could be a hot topic in this year’s legislative session, scheduled to begin Wednesday.

Lawmakers have been critical of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s pandemic-era memoir, which was attached to a $5.1 million contract. Cuomo was not required to publicly disclose his income from the book, which was revealed on his tax returns.

Cuomo was accused of using state personnel and resources to help write the book, which was penned during the first half of last year and published in the fall. He’s denied those claims, and said state employees volunteered to work on the book.

That was also part of an investigation from the State Assembly, which was considering impeachment this year against Cuomo before the former governor resigned.

In a report detailing its investigation, the Assembly Judiciary Committee wrote that junior staff were asked to work on the book as part of their regular work, not on a volunteer basis.

“Junior staff members were asked by senior Executive Chamber officials to perform tasks that were related to the Book as part of their regular course of work,” the report said.

JCOPE, the state ethics agency, revoked its approval for Cuomo’s book in November, and has since voted to claw back the former governor’s earnings from the memoir. Cuomo has pledged to take legal action if the agency follows through on that demand.

An investigation on the book has also been referred to the state attorney general’s office, but there have been no updates on that probe.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. WBFO listeners are accustomed to hearing DeWitt’s insightful coverage throughout the day, including expanded reports on Morning Edition.