March 17, 2016

Assembly to Implement Workgroup Recommendations to Strengthen Operations and Promote Transparency

Speaker Carl Heastie announced today the Assembly will take immediate action to implement recommendations from the Workgroup on Legislative Process, Operations, and Public Participation to promote transparency and increase member effectiveness. This will be accomplished through the adoption of new rules, administrative changes in procedures and upgrades in technology, ultimately resulting in a more efficient and accessible legislative process.

These changes, which will be phased in, are the result of the recommendations made by the Assembly workgroup appointed last year and charged with the examination of existing processes and ongoing efforts to improve and strengthen the Assembly rules, operations and legislative processes. Assemblymembers J. Gary Pretlow and Brian Kavanagh led the workgroup.

"I want to thank all of the members of the Assembly Majority for providing considerable input related to the way we operate. In particular, I want to thank Assemblymembers Pretlow and Kavanagh for their leadership in completing this considerable project. They worked diligently with the other members of the workgroup and the conference to sort through the numerous recommendations from members, advocates and constituents," said Heastie. "We will continue to work together as a conference to identify ways to increase our members' ability to effectively meet the needs of their constituencies."

The recommended changes presented by the workgroup, which are attached, relate to three broad areas: transparency and public participation, altering the legislative process to enable all members to more effectively advance their priorities, and improving resource allocation and efficiency in the Assembly's operations.

These new rules follow the historic steps taken over the last year to implement the use of electronic bills and tablets on Assembly chamber desks. The tablets provide members access to a range of legislative information, including daily session calendars, calendar briefing books, instant bill lookup and other advanced bill search capabilities.

"The recommendations put forth by the work group are thoughtful and comprehensive. These measures build on the steps that we have taken recently to introduce technology into our operations. While these new changes will take some time to put into operation, this investment will increase efficiencies as well as provide greater transparency and accountability," said Majority Leader Joseph Morelle.

Assemblymember Pretlow said, "The objective of this workgroup was to identify ways to make government work better and more openly for the people of New York. Collaborating with our colleagues and exploring ideas for increased efficiency was an important step towards achieving our longstanding goal to enhance legislative operations. New Yorkers deserve the peace of mind that comes with knowing their legislators are using modern systems that not only increase efficiency and cut costs, but also offer increased access to information."

Assemblymember Kavanagh said, "Over the course of many months, this workgroup has explored ways to make the legislature more open, accountable, and effective. We were presented with a wide range of ideas, thoroughly examined the feasibility and wisdom of implementing each of them, and worked to achieve the broad consensus being expressed in the recommendations. I am pleased to have had this opportunity to make positive changes in the ways we do the people's work, and I look forward to working with the Speaker and all my colleagues to ensure the recommendations are implemented, as we engage in a continuous effort to earn the trust that New Yorkers have placed in us."

The following Assembly members participated in the workgroup:

Assemblymember Michael Blake said, "We are here for the people, and the people deserve transparency, diligence and the highest standard of ethical behavior. I am grateful to Speaker Heastie for the opportunity to serve on this transformative working group to reform our processes to increase awareness and efficiency in government while strengthening and restoring trust with our constituents in the wake of corruption among a select few. I thank Co-Chairs Brian Kavanagh and Gary Pretlow for leading us honorably and ensuring that we improve transparency and justice to our government."

Assemblymember Vivian E. Cook said, "These new measures allow for a greater amount of transparency and inclusion in the legislative process. In 2016, we have so many resources available to us to both streamline procedures and offer New Yorkers opportunities to be more engaged in the legislative process. After much debate and careful consideration, this workgroup has decided on advancements that we believe will offer meaningful change in the way we serve New Yorkers."

Assemblymember Jeffrey Dinowitz said, "The recommendations of our workgroup are part of an ongoing effort by Speaker Carl Heastie to make the Assembly more open and democratic, to increase public participation and to restore confidence in State government. These proposals, along with ethics and campaign finance reform legislation passed by the Assembly, demonstrate the strong commitment of the Assembly majority to making positive change in Albany, and I thank Assembly Members Pretlow, Kavanagh and the other members of the Workgroup for the many hours they put into this most important effort."

Assemblymember Deborah J. Glick said, "I was gratified to be appointed to this work group to review our processes and operations in order to enhance public access to information and streamline our own procedures. Working with a diverse group of colleagues, I believe our recommendations will improve the way we function and the ability of the public to participate."

Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo said, "The workgroup examined dozens of ideas to find ways to improve the transparency and efficiency of our legislative operations. The results announced today constitute a vast improvement over past practices. I expect this is just the beginning of a longer process designed to bring meaningful change to the New York State Assembly."

Assemblymember Shelly Mayer said, "Today's announcement is a substantial step forward in our efforts to make the Assembly more transparent, and more democratic in its operation. It also will help provide all Assemblymembers with better tools to serve their constituents, and to ensure that the voices of all New Yorkers are heard in the legislative process. Speaker Heastie deserves much credit for pushing this initiative ahead, and I am deeply appreciative that I was able to be a part of this important effort."

Assemblymember Francisco Moya said, "These new measures build upon the changes we have made over the last year to make the legislative process more technologically advanced. By using electronic means to complete legislative tasks, we will be able to do our jobs more effectively and also share more of that process with our constituents."

Assemblymember Steve Otis said, "Our primary focus is to provide more openness and information to the public and to members of the Assembly with the goal of improving the work of the legislature and increasing public participation in the process."

Assemblymember Crystal Peoples-Stokes said, "This workgroup was dedicated to finding ways to protect and strengthen the integrity of our democratic government and increase our efficiency. These new measures will allow us to better meet the needs of the communities we serve and help build trust by offering greater transparency."

Assemblymember Phil Ramos said, "I look forward to putting these new resources to use. The more information we can access, the better equipped we are to make the most informed decisions for New York. We will also be able to be more responsive to the thoughts and ideas of our constituents as we increase the number of available communication outlets. Overall, this should help make the process much more efficient and transparent."

Assemblymember Sean Ryan said "I thank Speaker Heastie for making this workgroup a priority since he was elected Speaker. This workgroup has focused on ensuring more transparency, openness, and accountability in the Assembly. I am confident that we have put together a set of recommendations to help bring positive change to the Assembly, improve our rules, and ensure an open and transparent legislative process."

Assemblymember Rebecca A. Seawright said, "As legislators, we have both a responsibility to represent the best interests of the public and to help ensure the greatest possible access to the decision making processes. These reforms, focusing on greater transparency and broader participation---within the New York State Assembly and externally---will significantly improve the conduct of the business of government, which is the business of the people we serve."