The state Assembly on Jan. 11 took positive steps toward reforming the way it conducts business. After months of debate, it was bipartisanship and a push from two Long Island assemblymen that helped lead to a vote of 143-1 solidifying reform adoption. These two local assemblymen stood at the forefront of the reform debate and helped deliver these much-needed changes.
"For years I have been advancing a number of rules reforms with my Assembly minority colleagues to provide a Legislature more open to the needs of the people. The Assembly minority conference and I advanced these reforms last week, and now theyíre a reality. The hard work has paid off with this significant step in the right direction," Assemblyman James Conte (R,C-Huntington Station) stated.
"It was with great pride that I endorsed these constructive measures," Assemblyman Joseph Saladino (R,C,I-Massapequa) said. "It was obvious that rules reform must be addressed to restore the Assemblyís ability to govern, break roadblocks and foster a more fair government. Still, in the coming months, more legislative and governmental reforms must be adopted."
The reforms enacted during the historic legislative session include:
- An end to empty-seat voting by requiring a slow, roll-call vote on each bill
- Establishment of Tuesday sessions to provide greater review and debate of legislation
- Creation of legislative subcommittees to provide increased member input in the legislation development process
- Renewed efforts for creation of a statewide public service cable TV channel to televise Assembly sessions and report on state government news.
"We must do more in terms of legislative reform. My reform agenda stretches beyond what we recently adopted. I believe that we must continue on the path of bipartisanship by adopting additional reforms included in the Assembly Minority Excelsior 2005 plan," Conte said.
Assemblymen Saladino and Conte held a statewide press conference at the Capitol the week prior to the vote to call for sweeping changes and governmental reforms. They were joined by many high-level minority lawmakers to explain the need to adopt rules reform and call for an end to the "foot dragging." Some of these reforms have been demanded by members of the Assembly minority conference for years.
The Assembly minority conference continued their unwavering commitment to reform with the recent presentation of "Excelsior 2005: An Assembly Minority Blueprint for Growth and Reform in the Empire State." The plan includes a number of reforms that were adopted on Jan. 11 and address continued legislative reforms that, for example, would provide balanced committee membership and empower ranking minority members to call for committee hearings. Excelsior 2005 also addresses the need for government reform in the areas of lobbying, public authorities and the state budget process.
"Excelsior 2005 is the right action plan for the Assembly to use as a guide for the 2005 legislative session," Saladino said. "Government reform will remain a top priority for me and my Assembly minority colleagues. I hope we demonstrate leadership by working closely with Assembly members from both sides of the aisle to achieve all the reforms needed to provide a more responsive, open and equitable government for all New Yorkers. Long Island taxpayers deserve to be treated more fairly now, and permanently."
The press conference held by Assemblymen Conte and Saladino was one of the motivating forces which led to the reform package adopted by the Assembly.