Monday, June 08, 2009

Some Suggestions for Reform RIGHT NOW

Various news sources are reporting that Senators Espada and Monserrate have defected from the Democratic Majority in the Senate, restoring Republican control of the chamber.

While it’s unclear what exactly is going on at this point, the Republicans have been quite clear that they view the coup as a reform issue. Liz Benjamin reports that the Republicans’ statement preceding this afternoon’s vote to shift control of the chamber said that the move is intended to bring “real reform to the Senate RIGHT NOW,” and the Times reports that Tom Golisano may have helped orchestrate the vote in response to Malcolm Smith’s perceived failure to enact the rules reforms he promised.

If the (potential) new majority is serious about this claim, there are plenty of things that they could do, RIGHT NOW, to enact “real reform.” They could get it done before the end of the legislative session without waiting on the Assembly or the Governor. Specifically, they could reform their operating rules, so that the chamber began to look more like nearly every other statewide legislative chamber in the country (the New York Assembly excepted, of course). A few suggestions:

  • Establish a rule requiring that all significant legislation be read for amendments before a full meeting of the committee to which it is referred before receiving a vote, and allow committee members to introduce and vote on germane written and verbal amendments.
  • Establish a rule allowing bill sponsors or chairs of committees of original jurisdiction to call a conference committee over the wishes of the bill sponsor.
  • Establish a rule requiring that all bills placed on the discharge calendar receive consideration by the chamber.
  • Equitably distribute resources to all members of the Senate (inequitable resources were, after all, the Republicans’ main gripe during the past few months of Democratic control).
  • Establish a rule requiring that all bills reported out of committee be accompanied by a report that demonstrates the substantive work of the committee on the bill.

In the past few hours, Senate Republicans have certainly talked the talk. For once, in New York, it would be nice to see a majority of politicians actually walk the walk.

No comments: