Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Senate Rules Changes Crucial to Real Reform in NY

The Democratic sweep of the nation and much of New York yesterday did not include a takeover of the state Senate. According to a column by Michael Cooper in this morning’s Times, the race between Nick Spano and Andrea Stewart Cousins was the only one in the Senate that turned out to be intensely competitive. As of this writing, Spano is behind in the count but refusing to concede.

As Cooper points out, control of the Senate, despite big Democratic gains at the statewide level, gives Republicans an effective veto over all legislation. If a bill doesn’t make it through the Senate, it doesn’t make it at all.

Further, since leadership currently controls the fate of bills from the moment they are introduced, it is in effect Majority Leader Bruno who continues to have veto power over legislation in New York.

We sincerely hope to see all senators, including whoever is elected from Yonkers, support critical changes to the operating rules of that body. We understand that there are legitimate policy differences between Democrats and Republicans in New York and don’t expect every bill introduced to be passed (especially since the Legislature averages at least 15,000 introductions per year). But we do hope to see transformative rules changes that make it easier for rank-and-file members to get hearings and votes on bills in committee, that remove hurdles to getting bills passed out of committee to the floor, regardless of leadership disapproval, and that institutionalize conference committees to resolve differences on similar bills.

This is not a partisan issue. We believe it is the duty of both parties to come together to pass these vital reforms to create a more representative and accountable Senate.

Categories: General, Legislative Rules

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