Governor Kathy Hochul wants term limits for a handful of statewide elected offices in New York, including the governorship, she announced Monday as one of her first measures ahead of her coming State of the State address this week.
Hochul plans to introduce a limit of two four-year terms for the governor, lieutenant governor, state attorney general, and state comptroller, along with a ban most outside income for those positions.
“On day one as governor, I pledged to restore trust in government and I have taken steps every day to deliver the open, ethical governing New Yorkers deserve,” Hochul said in a Jan. 3 statement. “I want people to believe in their government again. 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.”
One good government advocate praised the move as a shift from Hochul’s disgraced predecessor, former Governor Andrew Cuomo, who led the state for a decade and landed a controversial $5.1 million deal to write a pandemic-era memoir.
“She’s looking to reduce her own power, which is refreshing,” said Rachael Fauss, a senior research analyst with the good government group Reinvent Albany.
Hochul plans to add an amendment to the state constitution for the term limits, which would have to get the approval from the state legislature in two consecutive sessions, before being voted on by the public in late 2023 at the earliest.
The governor, who took over after Cuomo resigned in August, is running for a full term in the upcoming June primary.
New York City has term limits for its elected officials like the mayor and the city council, but the state lacks those restrictions, and some governors have served for more than a decade, such as Nelson Rockefeller who headed the state for 14 years, or Cuomo’s father Mario Cuomo whose reign lasted 12 years.
The younger Cuomo was eager to run for a fourth term before his downfall last year due to a barrage of sexual harassment allegations against him.
The state Senate and Assembly would be unaffected by the change, and the chambers have members that have served for decades, such as Manhattan Assemblyman Dick Gottfried, who plans to retire after 50 years in office.
The limits at city government have allowed for more diverse candidates to run for open seats in City Hall, according to Fauss, who said Albany should expand the measure for legislators too.
“Having open seats creates a much more level playing field,” she said. “We hope that State Comptroller [Tom] DiNapoli and Attorney General Tish James also support the proposals.”
A spokesperson for DiNapoli said he was against the restrictions in the past but is open to discussion.
“Tom has generally not supported term limits. He trusts the wisdom of voters to make the best choice,” said Jennifer Freeman in an email. “However, the governor’s proposal deserves full discussion.”
In contrast, James’s office supported the move, according to a spokesperson for the state’s top prosecutor.
“Attorney General James is supportive of measures that make our government more responsive to the people it serves, and that includes this new proposal to establish term limits,” wrote Delaney Kempner in an email.
Hochul will also propose legislation barring all outside earnings except for academic positions, which would still need to be signed off by a state ethics panel.
Cuomo got the state’s ethics board the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) to sign off on the book “American Crisis” in 2020, but the oversight body rescinded its own decision last year and ordered him to pay back the proceeds to the state.
The twin proposals are the first official announcements of Hochul’s State of the State address scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 5, when she will outline her administration’s priorities.