Thursday, February 26, 2009

Larry Norden's Testimony Before the Temporary Committee on Rules Reform

Tonight, our colleagues Larry Norden and Eric Lane will testify before the Senate Temporary Committee on Rules Reform here in New York City.

The full text of Larry's testimony is now available on the Brennan Center website.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Handing over the Keys to the...Brunomobile?

We’ve written plenty about the inequitable distribution of member resources in the Senate, but lack of transparency obscured the full picture of just how bad it really was.

According to a story in yesterday’s New York Times, it was pretty bad – or good, if you’re in it for the entertainment value.

The Times reports that while conducting an assessment of how the Senate budget is allocated, Democrats have uncovered a slew of perks, ranging from the cushy to the bizarre, that Republicans granted themselves during their 44-year reign in the majority. Some highlights:

  • A secret TV studio used to record cable access shows
  • More than 800 parking spaces near the capitol
  • A bloated payroll and preferential printing at the Senate printing plant

And most certainly not least:

  • The “Brunomobile,” a van with six leather pilot chairs (some of which swivel, notes the Times) and its very own conference table.

Senator Smith says that the Majority is still trying to track down everyone on the 1,200 to 1,500-member Senate payroll, which might be tough, because nobody is quite sure exactly how many employees there are.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

There's Still Time to Weigh in on Rules

The temporary Senate committee charged with reviewing the chamber’s rules has been traveling the state this month to hear testimony from New Yorkers about their perspective on the legislative process.

Two hearings – one in Syracuse and one in Albany – have already taken place. In Syracuse, advocates called for stronger committees, greater transparency, and equal resources for members.

Two more hearings are scheduled for later in the month – one on Long Island and one in New York City, where our own Larry Norden will testify:

Thursday, February 26th, 6:00 – 9:00pm
New York State Senate Hearing Room
250 Broadway
New York, NY

Friday, February 27th, 10:00am – 1:00pm
Captree Commons Room 114
Suffolk County Community College
Campus, Crooked Hill Road
Brentwood, NY

For more information or to sign up to testify, visit the temporary committee’s shiny new website, which debuted yesterday.

Inability to attend the hearings is no excuse for not speaking up: individuals can also submit written testimony to

Thursday, February 05, 2009

The Best Bad News We've Heard All Day

Amidst all of the excitement of being tapped as the republican nominee for Kirstin Gillibrand’s vacant house seat, Assemblyman James Tedisco found the time last week to introduce four rules resolutions in his chamber, reflecting many of the recommendations we made in our recent report.

Among the highlights:

  • Giving members the right to have bills drafted within a reasonable period of time
  • Limiting the number of bills a member can introduce in the Assembly to thirty
  • Ensuring that conference committees include members from each party proportional to their representation in the chamber
  • Rejecting messages of necessity not approved by a two thirds majority of the chamber
  • Requiring actuaries who prepare fiscal notes to attest to no conflict of interest

All of the resolutions failed, even the one that made the single, seemingly modest request that “Access to rooms and facilities by the Minority shall not be unreasonably withheld and once granted, not changed without consent.”

But it’s not all bad news. Three of the bills had meaningful, if not substantial, bipartisan support. Nine democrats voted for at least one of the four resolutions, and both the resolution supporting proportional representation on conference committees and the resolution requiring actuaries who prepare fiscal notes to attest to no conflict of interest received eight democratic votes.

It may not sound like much, but it’s a step in the right direction.