Another Step Towards a Transparent Albany

A Column from the Desk of Assemblyman Karl Brabenec (R,C-Deerpark)

I was first elected in a special election in 2014 when my predecessor, Annie Rabbitt, became the Orange County clerk. For my first two years in the Assembly, one of my biggest policy initiatives was a push for further transparency in state government. That meant open discussion and forums, extensive and public documentation of our activities, and a clear line of communication between Albany and the rest of the state. Two years later, in 2016, our conference rallied together and pushed forward a bill that would ensure one of the Legislature’s most important and politically salient activities would be video presented and recorded in perpetuity for the public record: Assembly committee meetings.

As sheepishly announced earlier this week by the Assembly Majority, they are finally making good on that bill’s passage. I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that the Majority allowing a bill’s directive to go unimplemented for over six years is the prime example of Albany incompetence. But in that same breath, to call it an incompetent act dilutes the more concerning nature of their inaction.

When we’re not visible to the public in all facets of our job, the temptation is great for too many to try and get away with more than they should, or more than is better for their constituency. It’s an especially potent problem when one party, a supermajority, is already able to push any agenda they choose with little option to be countered. That’s why my Minority colleagues and I aren’t done with this fight yet.

Committee meetings are now going to be recorded on video. That’s great! But they should also be archived for the public to see. Our representatives need to be more accessible, not less. Our state spending must be discussed where the public can have insight of the proposals, rather than shuffled along for the Comptroller’s Office to manage. Our government needs greater independent oversight, not a committee in service of one party or another. Our executive branch needs further scrutiny, allowing us to better question executive actions and limit emergency declarations. These are all sensible, practical goals that anyone of any political affiliation can get behind, and it’s what I’ll continue to fight for as we go through another legislative session together.