Thursday, October 05, 2006

War of the Reformers?

Yesterday, Democratic State Senate candidate Andrea Stewart-Cousins held a press conference at City Hall in Yonkers to tout her 12-point plan for reforming Albany. The Westchester Journal News reports that she was joined by sitting Senators David Paterson, Malcolm Smith, Jeff Klein, Eric Schneiderman, Thomas Duane, Ruth Hassell-Thompson, Toby Stavisky, and John Sabini. The plan highlights campaign finance, redistricting, lobbying, legislative rules, and debt reform and relies in part on findings from two of our reports, Paper Thin: The Flimsy Fa├žade of Campaign Finance Laws in New York State and The New York Legislative Process: An Evaluation and Blueprint for Reform.

Stewart-Cousins is locked in a battle with incumbent Republican Nick Spano, who has also embraced a reform agenda. The Journal News notes that Democratic leaders at the Stewart-Cousins press conference complained that Spano was stealing their issue — he apparently issued his own 11 point plan to "retool" the Legislature.

This appears to be another case of two candidates trying to out-reform each other. Regardless of who wins the race in the 35th District, though, it’s great that this contest is showcasing crucial reform issues like campaign finance and redistricting.

But before the war of words gets any hotter, we have a suggestion: wait until next Wednesday, when the Brennan Center will release its new evaluation of the Legislature. Among other things, we conclude that the legislative rules reforms adopted in January 2005 (supposedly in response to our last evaluation) have not resulted in a substantially more representative, effective, accessible, accountable, and efficient legislature. We identify the four most crucial reforms that the legislators should implement when they adopt their rules in January 2007.

New York is in need of many reforms, but there are specific changes that can make the Legislature a more fuctional and representative body. We're hopeful that, next Wednesday afternoon, whatever other disagreements they may have, Stewart-Cousins, Spano and every other candidate for the 2007 Legislature will stand with the Brennan Center and agree.

Categories: General, Legislative Rules, Campaign Finance

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