Opportunity For Reform Missed In The Assembly

March 21, 2007

Legislative successes at the beginning of 2007 have already made this one of the most productive years in my legislative career. We have successfully passed significant pieces of legislation including measures to provide for the civil confinement of the most dangerous sexual predators, legislation to reform New York’s broken workers’ compensation system and much-needed budget reform.

Unfortunately, this positive momentum and stellar record built over the last two-and-one-half months was severely diminished recently when the Assembly Majority voted down all 16 rules changes proposed by the Assembly Minority.

Included were common sense proposals designed to bring greater accountability, fairness and transparency to the legislative process in Albany. Among the proposed reforms were measures to:

  1. Equalize staffing resources for Minority and Majority members
  2. Require Assembly-Senate conference committees to negotiate a compromise once similar bills pass in each house
  3. Provide public transcripts of committee meetings
  4. Require fiscal impact statements on all bills
  5. Allow ranking Minority members of committees to call public hearings
  6. Require a bill be sent from a committee to the full Assembly for a vote when a majority of the members (at least 76) have signed on as sponsors
  7. Establish committee membership ratios to reflect the ratio of Majority to Minority members that are currently elected to the house

I was very discouraged when the Assembly Majority rejected these rules reform proposals. I strongly believe these good-government reforms would have brought increased openness and transparency to the legislative process in Albany and would have helped provide New Yorkers with a state government that gives every citizen an equal voice in the Legislature, regardless of party affiliation or whether their representatives serve in the Majority or Minority parties.

I am not alone in my support for these proposals. Groups such as the Brennan Center for Justice, Common Cause New York, the League of Women Voters of New York State and the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) support these reforms. Clearly, these reform measures deserved greater consideration by the Assembly Majority.

I have for many years advocated for real reform of New York’s government and these are the types of changes I will continue to fight for to make our state government more accountable, efficient and transparent for the people of our state.