Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Now that we've voted, the hard part

In a terrific essay in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, Reginald W. Neale hits the nail on the head: voting isn't enough; if New Yorkers want to take back their state government, they have to make sure that their elected legislators follow through on their promises. Money quote:

We aren't paying attention. It's time for citizens to understand clearly that the steady decline of our once great state cannot be reversed until we acknowledge the causes: bad legislative rules, self-interested redistricting, autocratic leaders and a Capitol awash in special-interest money.

The Assembly Democrats are caucusing in New York City today, starting to think about their agenda for the next session. The Senate Republicans will be doing the same shortly.

Now is the time for New Yorkers to contact their local legislators and tell them they want action. The first step is reforming the legislative rules -- both chambers will adopt rules for the new session as soon as they reconvene in January. Real reform of the rules means doing the following:

• Strengthening the committee process by creating mechanisms to force hearings and votes on bills;

• Ending the stranglehold that leadership has over bills getting the floor by creating a mechanism for rank-and-file members to force floor votes;

• Institutionalizing conference committees; and

• Ending leadership control over the resources and staff available to members and committees

It's the first test, and legislators need to hear from voters that we'll be watching. If you can, call and tell them.

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