Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Time for State Legislature to Step Up?

On the heels of Spitzer's inauguration, and with momentum for reform building, papers around the State call for the Legislature to become a more transparent, accountable and representative body. And to start making changes this week.

From the Daily News, an editorial entitled "Day One for the Legislature":

As is well known, after a nationwide study, NYU Law School's Brennan Center branded the Legislature America's worst a few years back. To rise above being a laughingstock, lawmakers made minimal changes. It was considered revolutionary, for example, that they ended empty-seat voting, a convenience that counted them as present and voting "yes" as long as they were somewhere in the Capitol.

Both houses will soon get down to formalizing new rules and procedures. This will be the time when lawmakers will first show whether they take seriously Spitzer's reform message. Will they ban the receipt of all gifts more pricey than a cup of coffee, as he is doing for the executive branch? Will they provide all members, whether in the majority or the minority, with equal staff and resources, as happens in Congress? Will they end their enslavement to lulus? They must.

And from the Syracuse Post Standard, "Be Fair And Share: Stop Allocating Tax Dollars on the Basis of Party and Loyalty." The Post-Standard points out what the Brennan Center highlighted in its most recent report on the State Legislature:

In a comparable period, the average member of the Senate majority was allotted $361,143.90 to spend on his or her office, compared with $197,390.80 for the minority senator. In the Assembly the numbers were $161,575.80 for the average majority member, $109,804.50 for the average minority member.

In other words, the average Senate Republican was able to spend 82 percent more than the average Senate Democrat. The average Assembly Democrat spent 47 percent more than his or her minority Republican counterpart.

The paper instists that the Legislature must do what's right: Equalize resources available to majority and minority lawmakers, including member items. Additional resources should go to legislators solely on the basis of need or other objective criteria - not party affiliation or loyalty.

Finally, we would be remiss if we didn't highlight Mark Bitz's excellent New Year's Eve op-ed, "How Legislative Rules in Albany," in which he calls on the Legislature to embrace basic rules changes, this week, to make the legislature more transparent and accountable.

We'll all be watching.

Categories: General, Legislative Rules

No comments: