Tuesday, March 06, 2007

...And the Assembly Rules Fight Ends

As promised, we’re back for an update on last night’s Assembly rules resolutions, and as predicted, each one went down to defeat.

For those of you who are interested in the specific language of the proposals, you can use the Bill Search and check out resolutions E228 through E243.

Here are the highlights:

Strengthening the Committee Process

E230 would have made it easier for rank-and-file members to force a hearing on specific legislation, reducing the threshold from a majority to a quarter of the committee.

E234 would have mandated the transcription of committee meetings. More importantly, these transcripts would be made available on the Assembly website.

Easing the Restrictions on Getting Bills to the Floor

E242 would have eased the requirements for getting a bill discharged from committee. It also would have allowed for five (up from one) discharge motions per day and would have required that motions to discharge be handled at least five days before the end of the session.

E243 would have given each member of the Assembly the chance to choose one of his or her bills during each two-year term and have that bill brought to the floor for a vote on its merits.

Institutionalizing Conference Committees

E228 would have actually required the Assembly Committee on Conference Committees, which was created in the last round of reforms in 2005, to meet at least once before the end of the legislative session. The Committee would be charged with evaluating claims by Assembly bill sponsors that the Senate had passed a similar bill. Significantly, the language of this proposal would have forced the Speaker to call for a conference if recommended by the Committee.

Ending Leadership Control over Resources and Staff

E241 would have required that the minority conference receive a share of staff and resources proportionate to their numbers. This would not necessarily prevent the leaders from arbitrarily doling out resources, but it would alleviate the dramatic resource disparity between the conferences. (During the period from October 1, 2005 to March 31, 2006, majority Assembly members spent an average of 47% more than minority members.)

We might have written some of these resolutions differently, but they certainly would have been a significant step toward reform in the Assembly. Unfortunately, it seems that the Assembly Majority is not committed to creating a more responsive, deliberative, accessible, accountable, and efficient legislative process. Members may boo when the Assembly is called dysfunctional, but it's hard to see how the epithet isn't still deserved.

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