Each year the New York State Legislature passes thousands of bills, many of which become law. The new laws most often cover things like public safety, health, criminal acts and our election process. A large number of bills cover routine governmental needs like extending tax collections or granting pension rights. Occasionally, we hear of some new law and the first question that comes to mind is where did that come from?
Quite a few of the bills passed in Washington or Albany have been pending for years and, thanks to some incident or media report, they miraculously come to life. Not every elected legislator is an original thinker and by luck a lawmaker comes up with a unique idea and it works its way into a proposal. It may not surprise you to learn that some unique change in the law came about because an interested voter wrote a letter to their elected official suggesting the need for government action.
During my 23 years in Albany, I was fortunate to have gotten a number of letters asking for legislative help and I had the desire to follow up. My favorite law that started out as a voter gripe was the Lemon Law. An unhappy constituent who bought a new car that was defective wrote begging for some consumer protection. After a battle royal with the big auto manufacturers, my Lemon Law bill passed both houses and was signed into law by Gov. Carey. Today, the Lemon Law now covers new and used dealer cars as well as leased cars.
Since I am a registered voter and I pay my taxes, I have a few federal laws to propose that would affect present and future presidents. Let’s start with presidential pardons. Rather than wait until Mr. Trump’s final days in office, wouldn’t it be appropriate that all presidential pardons must be granted prior to Election Day if you are running for re-election? That way the voting public would know who will benefit from this extraordinary gift before they cast their ballots.
It is a matter of law that sitting presidents cannot be charged with a crime. Special Counsel Robert Mueller declined to allege any presidential crimes because of his belief that the president was immune from charges. President Trump has made it clear from time to time that “I could shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue and no one could prosecute me.” Over these past few weeks, the president has threatened numerous public officials who didn’t support his claims that the election was rigged. I would suggest that any presidential threat against another public official involving the conduct of the election be subject to criminal prosecution.
During the past month, President Trump has aggressively solicited moneys from millions of innocent citizens for his legal defense fund.
It is estimated that those appeals have raised over $200 million. The president’s lawyers have lost 39 of the election challenges and it would appear that there are millions left that will go into a Trump discretionary fund to be used at the whim of the owner. It would be appropriate to have a law which requires that any leftover defense funds must be returned to the donors under threat of prosecution.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused millions of Americans to shelter at home and avoid going to non-essential locations. Since mid-May the president has urged citizens to go about their business and ignore virus warnings. He has gone as far as to suggest that the public officials who have ordered mask mandates or quarantines be challenged by their neighbors. There are numerous reported cases of physical threats being made against officials doing their jobs. That conduct should be a federal crime with no immunity.
There are dozens of other presidential missteps that I can think of that merit a change in the law. Please feel free to suggest a few of your own.