Giglio: Reform of State Government Can No Longer Wait

As a State Assemblyman, I have consistently advocated for rules reforms that would be the first step toward ending gridlock and dysfunction in Albany and would transform state government into a body that is accountable and responsive to the needs of taxpayers. I have fought for the changes that would lead to a more effective state government, but efforts to do so have been met with opposition from legislative leaders currently in control of the legislative process. State government can no longer wait for rules reform; changes must be made, and they must be made immediately.

In 2006, the Brennan Center for Justice released a follow-up report to their 2004 study of New York State government, entitled “Unfinished Business.” They determined that, while their 2004 examination revealed a long list of endemic problems in state government, the Legislature had actually taken several steps backward in areas that had been identified as needing reform. Specifically, they pointed to the lack of a conference committee structure and continued complete majority party control in deciding which bills reach the floor of both houses for debate.

Many of the reform initiatives identified in the Brennan Center’s studies have been priorities of mine, but they have continually been turned aside by downstate legislative leaders. The following are some reform measures that I have consistently called for:

  • Limiting the power of leaders in control of the legislative process;
  • Enacting term-limits for legislative leaders to end the current system of power maintenance within the Legislature;
  • Creating a “member’s prerogative,” which would entitle each Assembly member to advance at least one piece of legislation out of committee and onto the floor for a vote; and
  • Providing a level playing field for all members in terms of staffing allotments, committee representation and member item allotment, which must be equal for all legislators or abolished entirely.

In 2007, the legislative leaders and the governor passed new budget reforms that would provide greater transparency in the budget process. Under these laws, the majority leader of the Senate and the speaker of the Assembly are required to issue a schedule of dates to review the governor’s budget submission within 10 days after it has been submitted. This includes the convening of conference committees and agreeing on a budget to be delivered on-time, which clearly has not happened. These leaders are ignoring and breaking their own laws and should be held accountable for such actions.

The 2008 report, “Still Broken,” showed that the problems listed in the previous two studies remain unaddressed. The report stressed that the Assembly leadership “maintained a stranglehold on the flow of all legislation at all stages of the legislative process.” Ironically, the report cited one of the only signs of hope as being the pending transfer of Senate Majority control to the Minority, offering the possibility of substantive rules reforms. Sadly, that optimistic view of the future never came to fruition.

These reforms are supported by the Brennan Center, and they are also common sense measures that are vital to providing taxpayers with an honest and responsive State government. Now is the time for all legislators, including those under the influence of legislative leaders, to stop being a “rubber-stamp” for bad policies and work in a bipartisan way to immediately confront the inaction of legislative leaders. Now is the time for legislators to step up to the plate, do what is right and take back state government for the good of all New Yorkers.