In fact, the Legislature’s record is a good one. A lot depends on how you measure success. A successful legislature will do three things well: pass laws; provide ordinary people access to power and enable them to influence decisions; and, most important, check abuse of executive power.While we agree that the Legislature appears to be improving on the first and last of Brodsky’s measures, the middle one, providing access to the public and rank-and-file members, needs some serious work.
By those standards, New York’s Legislature is doing well.
As we wrote earlier today, most of the progress that has been made during Eliot Spitzer’s short term as governor has come at the expense of public input -- with deals brokered behind closed doors without hearings and public comment.
We agree with Assemblyman Brodsky that New Yorkers do have access to their legislators in Albany and their home districts, but under the current rules, this access is all but worthless unless you happen to live in the district of a chamber leader or committee chair. Rank-and-file members have very little power to influence policy in the face of leadership opposition. Our research shows that in 2005 (the last year for which complete stats are available), there were almost no hearings held on major legislation that actually became law; there was substantive debate on fewer than 5% of major bills that became law; fewer than 10% of bills introduced were actually passed into law; and neither house voted down a single bill that was subject to a floor vote. At the very least, this casts some doubt on Assemblyman Brodsky's contention that the legislature is "doing well."
The fact is that process matters. The rules matter. A legislative process that is truly open to public comment and rank-and file member input will create superior public policy. It’s time for the Legislature to adopt truly transformative changes to its operating rules.