Rules Reform Necessary For Greater Transparency And Accountability In State Assembly

Legislative column from Assemblyman Brian M. Kolb (R,C,I-Canandaigua)
January 30, 2009

Good government groups, such as the Brennan Center and others, have labeled the New York State Legislature as one of the most dysfunctional in the nation. For far too long, our state Capital has been operating with backroom deals and fiscal irresponsibility being accepted with a just-business-as-usual attitude that led to our current economic crisis. In a time when the public perception of politics is low, it is paramount that we counteract the growing apathy and disdain by advancing proposals that will make our state government more transparent and accountable to the people it serves.

Recently, my Assembly Minority colleagues and I advanced a package of thirty-one procedural reforms for the people’s house of the state Legislature. As Minority Leader Pro Tem, I was proud to advocate these sweeping reforms that would have made the legislative process more equitable while making information more accessible to both the members of the Assembly as well as the public. A few of our key reforms would:

  • Force fiscal impact statements to appear on all bills – in order for all legislators and the general public to realize the financial impact on the state;
  • Define unfunded mandates by requiring any bill that imposes unfunded mandates on municipalities or that would require additional taxes to be specifically labeled on the Assembly calendar before being considered;
  • Require Legislators to post their expenditures on the Assembly website semi-annually – providing greater information and transparency for the public;
  • Make all committee roll call votes available on the Assembly website –allowing greater transparency to the public on how their Assembly member voted; and
  • Call for the immediate convening of conference committees when bills addressing the same subject have been passed by both chambers – to provide for a more efficient method for considering legislation.

It is disappointing that these reforms were defeated by the Assembly Majority. Government reform is not only in the best interest of the members, but it enables every resident of this state to get indistinguishable representation in the state Assembly regardless of geographic location and partisan politics. Further, these proposed reforms would bring greater transparency and accountability, which are essential for us to govern properly and for the public to have the most amount of direct influence on the creation of policy and law.

I will continue my fight for a better government, one that is more open and responsible to the people it serves. As always, your input is greatly appreciated and I ask that you contact my district office at (315) 781-2030 or e-mail me at

Together, we can make this a better state to live and work!