Wednesday, January 12, 2011

What’s Wrong with Senate Committees

The Majority and Minority standing committee assignments for the new legislative session serve as an excellent reminder of key reforms which must be made to the committee process: legislative committees must be consolidated and the number of committees on which an individual Senator may serve must be reduced.

As the assignment tables reveal, the Senate has 32 standing committees and some Senators in the majority are serving on up to 11 committee assignments (one of whom is chairing two committees). Several Senators in the minority are also serving on upwards to eight committees. With a legislature that is only convening 63 days this session, should we even bother to expect a Senator serving on 11 committees to devote enough time to any of their assignments?

As we note in our 2004 report, New York’s Senators serve on an average of eight committee assignments – more than any other state legislature in the nation. In many legislatures throughout the country, legislators serve on three to four committee assignments. In the 2004 report, we further note that the New York State Senate’s 32 standing committees made it the second highest in any State Senate. In Senator Squadron’s (who will be serving on six committees himself) recent memo on rules reform, he called for the consolidation of committees and a limit of five committee assignments per Senator. While we would ultimately like to see the number reduced to three, limiting committee assignments would have the potential of increasing productivity in the Senate.

If the new Senate wishes to prove to New Yorkers that they are serious about reforming Albany, then they will have to go back to the drawing board with these committee assignments and the reforms we outlined must be included in the new operating rules.

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