Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Albany on the Record

At a press conference today in Albany, another non-partisan group working for more open and accountable government was launched. "Reinvent Albany" is looking to shake things up in our state capitol. They've already announced their first event, Albany on the Record, which will be held in Albany on May 5th. The purpose of the event is to get the state’s top elected officials to tell New Yorkers how they will restore the public’s trust, and put them on the record for what reforms they will fight for during the next legislative session. Albany on the Record will be webcast live from Empire State Plaza. The Brennan Center, Citizens Union, Common Cause, the League of Women Voters, and NYPIRG are joining Reinvent Albany in sponsoring this event.

CORRECTION: When we initially posted this item, we erroneously omitted our good friends at the League of Women Voters of New York. We sincerely apologize for the unintentional oversight.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Brennan Center Notifies Department of Justice That New York Voting Changes Were Not Precleared

We've blogged before about serious concerns the Brennan Center and other New York voting rights groups had about policies adopted by the State Board for New York's new electronic voting machines, which will be used statewide for the first time this September. After extensive research, we have concluded that these policies violate New York State law and should have been precleared with the Department of Justice, pursuant to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. This apparently was not done. We have alerted the Department of Justice, and the New York State and City Boards to our findings. A copy of the letter detailing our findings, and a press release can be found here and here.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Albany Lawmakers Propose Shareholder Rights As Citizens United Response

Last Week, New York State Sen. Daniel Squadron, D-Brooklyn/Manhattan, and Assemblyman Rory Lancman, D-Queens, proposed a bill which would require shareholder approval before a New York corporation could spend in politics. The bill also requires more transparency by mandating that companies tell shareholders of their past political spending. The new bill mirrors language proposed by the Brennan Center’s Ciara Torres-Spelliscy in her report, “Corporate Campaign Spending: Giving Shareholders A Voice” which encourages Congress to make similar changes at the federal level. Congress has a similar bill called the Shareholder Protection Act (H.R. 4790). If Congress fails to act, shareholders will need protections from state laws like this New York State bill. The Senate will be holding hearings on this and other election reform bills this week.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

A Better Budget?

Today, the Senate democrats unveiled a series of proposals to reform the state’s budget process, which this year has dragged on a week beyond the mandated deadline with no apparent end in sight.

Most of the proposals – which are outlined in six separate bills – focus on better long-term financial planning and external oversight of the budget designed to eliminate waste. One bill would move the budget deadline back to May 31, following the recommendations made by the Senate’s Select Committee on Budget and Tax Reform in a report also released today.

While we have not yet analyzed the legislation in detail, we’re glad to see the Senate thinking constructively about ways to reform the state’s broken budget process and we hope that the Assembly also seriously considers reform. If the Senate does not have the cooperation of the lower chamber, it should at the very least demonstrate its commitment to a better budget by continuing to build upon the steps it has taken toward greater transparency. New Yorkers certainly deserve to have their tax dollars managed more wisely, but they also have a right to be privy to the decisions made about how their money is to be spent.