Reform Is Needed To Improve State Business In Albany

February 3, 2006

I often hear from my constituents that they are frustrated by the slow pace of legislative action and lack of bipartisan efforts in Albany. New York’s voters are clearly demanding reform, and we need to improve the legislative process to make it more open, efficient, and equitable.

Legislative reform is a concept that my Assembly minority colleagues and I have embraced for many years. Last week, we proposed to the entire Assembly 12 rules changes that would help fix the State Assembly’s still archaic legislative process and make it more open, efficient and equitable. The common-sense measures we advanced would have made the playing field more level for all members of the legislature and improve the way business is done in the Assembly Chamber.

Last year, all the members of the Assembly united in adopting rules changes to make our work more transparent to the public. While those strides are a positive development, more needs to be accomplished. The rules changes we advocate would give all members the tools they need to be effective legislators for their constituents and the entire state.

Specifically the rules changes which I have advocated for would:

  • Identify on the legislative calendar, or a separate “mandate calendar,” unfunded mandates on localities and school districts.
  • Require a vote of 2/3 (super-majority) for final passage of any bill which imposes, continues or revives a tax or creates a debt
  • Require all bills be accompanied by a fiscal impact statement, so that the financial impact on the residents and our state would be clearly identifiable
  • As in Congress, allow for all members to speak on issues of real concern to their constituents after the completion of the orders of the day.
  • Allow the open sponsorship of all bills. Currently, the control of these bills is entirely within the hands of the prime sponsor.

These reforms are not just about the legislative process: they deal with a fundamental principle that Assembly districts should not be discriminated against by the majority party in control of the Assembly merely because of the party affiliation of their democratically elected representatives.

These rules changes are moderate, sensible reforms that the people of this state deserve. They would undoubtedly improve the Assembly’s legislative process.

Though we represent the minority party in the Assembly, our members should be given the same opportunities to represent our constituents as those afforded to members in the majority party. Unfortunately, the Assembly majority has chosen not to accept these rules changes. In fact, every majority member voted against the reform package. Nonetheless, my Assembly minority colleagues and I will continue to serve our constituents to the best of our abilities and advocate for these important changes.