Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Will the Senate Opt for Self Improvement Today?

Today, the internal operating rules of the New York State Senate expire. Will the Senate grab this opportunity to change the way it does business? We hope so. Today, several New York senators introduced a resolution to reform the Senate’s rules to make the body more open, transparent and democratic. The Brennan Center, along, with 11 other groups, sent a letter to all Senators, calling upon them to adopt the proposed resolution. The resolution proposes many changes, notably,

• Ending the majority leader’s control over individual and committee resources and staff, permitting a more equitable distribution of funds;

• Prohibiting the use of the canvass of agreement, a parliamentary decision-making method that permits opponents of motions and bill amendments to avoid having their dissent recorded; and,

• Allowing rank-and-file members to meaningfully participate in committees, by eliminating proxy voting in committees and giving members some power to hold public hearings.

Two years ago, a Brennan Center report tagged the New York State legislative rules as “the most dysfunctional in the nation,” and a follow up report this year concluded that little had changed, despite some minor rules changes and promises from both State houses that their undemocratic and unaccountable way of doing business would become a thing of the past.

On the very same day that a column in the Daily News highlights the broken nature of the New York State Legislature, the Senate can make great strides towards fixing itself. If it adopts the resolution proposed today, it will be a clear signal to the public that it has heard the call for reform.

Categories: General, Legislative Rules

No comments: