We've argued that if any bill deserves a hearing and some real public debate, it's the new ethics bill just dropped by leaders of the Senate and Assembly: after all, the bill's supporters argue that it's very purpose is to bring greater openness and disclosure to Albany.
The new Rules provide an opportunity for that hearing and debate, no matter how quickly leadership wants to move the bill. It allows just 1/3 of committee members to petition to hold hearings on specific bills (subject to the approval of a majority of the committee).
The Senate Republicans complain they were excluded from the closed-door negotiations on the bill. So here's the question of the day: will Senate Republicans demand an up or down vote for a hearing on this bill, which would give not only them, but the people of New York, a chance to publicly comment on this bill?
We'd be very interested in seeing if anyone would vote against such a hearing.
As we've mentioned before, the new Rules in the Senate won't mean much unless and until Senators start using them. And anyone can use them -- not just Democrats, or a majority of members. That was supposed to be the point of many of these changes -- they were meant to give rank and file members (and the public) a voice in the legislature. The new Ethics bill provides a great opportunity to see whether any Senators will use the new Rules to improve what has been, for far too many years, a broken process.