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Brennan Center Renews Call for Uncommitted Assembly Democrats to Support Albany Reform

December 1, 2004

For Immediate Release
Wednesday, December 1, 2004

Contact Information:
Natalia Kennedy, 212 998–6736

Brennan Center Renews Call for Uncommitted Assembly Democrats to Support Albany Reform
New York City Members Weaker than Upstate Colleagues in Support for Reform

New York, NY – With Democratic members of the Assembly meeting in New York City this week to discuss reform, 59 members of the 2004 Democratic conference have yet to publicly declare their position on the package of rules reforms pending before the Assembly for the past two months.

The Brennan Center first contacted all 150 members of the Assembly in October, asking them to support the pending rules reforms, and has followed-up with phone calls and mailings. Twenty-nine Democratic Assemblymembers and 47 members of the Republican minority in the Assembly have signed onto the resolutions sponsored by Assemblymember Scott Stringer and based on the Brennan Center report.

Assemblymembers who have been silent need to announce whether they support or oppose rules changes to open up the Legislature. The people of the state want to know where their elected officials stand, said Brennan Center spokesman Scott Schell. We have come to a rare moment in New York politics where there is real opportunity to improve the workings of our state government. Very soon we will know whether or not our elected officials have seized this opportunity.
The numbers and percentages in this release are based upon Assembly membership for the term ending in 2004. It does not reflect the change in membership in 2005.

Regional Differences

Support for rules reform is relatively weak among New York Citys assemblymembers, and much stronger upstate and in the New York suburbs (Nassau, Suffolk, Rockland, and Westchester counties). Of New York Citys 65 assemblymembers, only 20, or 31%, have signed onto the Stringer resolutions. In the four suburban counties, 20 of 32 assemblymembers, or 63%, have put their names on the resolutions. Outside of New York City and its suburbs, support for reform is even stronger: 36 of 53 members, or 70%, have signed onto the pending rules reforms.

Seniority Affects Support for Change

In addition to this sharp difference along regional lines, there is a difference in support depending upon how many years an assemblymember has served in Albany. Among the 69 Democratic assemblymembers who have been in Albany for more than 6 years, only 16, or 23.2%, have signed onto the Stringer resolutions. Among the 34 more junior Democratic assemblymembers, serving 6 years or fewer in Albany, support for rules reform jumps to 38% (13 of 34). Two new Democratic members of the Assembly, Charles Lavine and Jimmy Meng, both of whom defeated an incumbent Democrat and Republican, have stated that they support the rules reform embodied in the Stringer resolutions.

Additional Assemblymembers Likely to Support Reform

Of those assemblymembers not signed onto the Stringer resolutions, several have indicated they are likely to support the resolutions, or at least many of the proposed rules changes. Assemblymember Joan K. Christensen (D-Syracuse) told the Brennan Center that she is prepared to vote for the Stringer resolutions but elected not to put her name on the resolutions. Assemblywoman Margaret Markey (D-Queens) did not respond to the Brennan Centers calls for support, though the Queens Tribune reported on November 18, 2004, that she supports Stringer.

Other assemblymembers have told the Brennan Center that they understood the need for reform and supported some, if not all, of the rules reform proposals. This group includes Assemblymembers James F. Brennan (D-Kings) and Michael Cohen (D-Queens), both of whom are multi-sponsors of one of the Stringer resolutions, and Richard N. Gottfried (D-New York), Aileen Gunther (D-Forestburgh), J. Gary Pretlow (D-Westchester) and James W. Lavelle (D-Richmond). Some of these assemblymembers stated they needed more time to confer with colleagues.

Key Documents

For additional information about efforts to reform Albany, please visit Reforming the NYS Legislature.

The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, founded in 1995, unites thinkers and advocates in pursuit of a vision of inclusive and effective democracy. Its mission is to develop and implement an innovative, nonpartisan agenda of scholarship, public education, and legal action that promotes equality and human dignity, while safeguarding fundamental freedoms.
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