Sunday, August 20, 2006

Silver Takes on the Times

Speaker Silver makes a convincing case that the Times takes too broad a swipe at the state legislature for failing to close loopholes in the state's campaign finance reforms. There's no question that the Assembly has repeatedly passed a campaign finance bill that, while far from perfect, would be an improvement over the current state of affairs. For this, the Assembly certainly deserves credit. The same cannot be said for the Senate.

Of course, if the Senate were to pass its own campaign finance bill, it is far from certain -- even then -- that New York would get real campaign finance reform. One of the many reasons reform is so hard to get in New York is that even when both houses pass similar bills, conference committees are extremely rare (unlike in Congress and many other state legislatures, there is no mechanism to ensure that they occur). Without a conference committee -- a public meeting between members of each chamber to hash out the differences in similar bills -- there is no compromise between the chambers (unless Silver and Bruno get together), and no new law to send to the Governor. All too often, the result is that everyone can claim to be a reformer, but no reform actually gets passed.

But the Assembly can make sure one bit of reform does get done soon -- and it can do it without having to compromise with the Senate: Rules Reform. In January, the Assembly can make sure that it adopts new legislative rules for its chamber, to make it more transparent, deliberative and accountable to the people of New York. It can transcribe committee meetings, so that New Yorkers see where their Assemblymembers stand on issues. It can make it easier for bills to get out of committee and onto the chamber floor for debate and a vote, so that there is actual public debate and votes on more issues that New Yorkers really care about. There's so much it can do! -- and none of it involves waiting for the Senate to finally jump on board.

Categories: General, Campaign Finance, Legislative Rules

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