For Immediate Release:
Contact: Jeanine Plant-Chirlin, 212–998–6289
Brennan Center Responds to Yesterday’s Stunning News
New York—Yesterday, members of the New York State Senate voted to install Republican Dean Skelos as President of the Senate and and Democrat Pedro Espada as Majority Leader passed a resolution to enact several rules changes.
Tom Golisano, who backed the vote, says the move was orchestrated in the name of “bringing real reform to the Senate.” Golisano cited the Brennan Center’s Still Broken: New York State Senate Reform report as evidence that reform is necessary, stating that Senate Democrats had failed to enact the reforms they promised before becoming the Majority in January.
Golisano’s main complaint is on the transparency of the budget process. “It is fair to say that if the Democrats had passed broader rules reform this year, Golisano would have had another venue to air his grievances, and the arguments about reform that he and others made yesterday would have had less legitimacy,” says Brennan Center Senior Fellow Eric Lane, who served as Chief Counsel to the Senate Minority from 1981 to 1986.
“The devil is really in the details,” says Brennan Center Senior Counsel Lawrence Norden, author of the Center’s 2006 and 2008 reports about the legislative process in Albany.
“While a statement released by Senator Skelos indicates that the rules changes passed yesterday include improvements like allowing rank-and-file members to force a bill onto the floor, it is impossible to analyze the changes without seeing the exact text of the resolution passed by the Senate. In the past, Senate Republicans have passed resolutions worded to protect the status quo under the guise of reform. But if these reforms are what they appear to be, they represent important – but incomplete – change,” Norden says.
“However the reforms are worded, they fail to address the most critical component of Albany’s broken process: the committee system. The reforms fail to provide for an amendment process in committee or to require committees to produce substantive reports on the bills that they report to the full chamber. The Senate won’t bring its chamber into line with nearly every other legislature in the country until it addresses the broken committee system,” Norden says.
“It’s great for members to have the ability to force bills to the floor for a vote, but it would be much better for New York if those bills had been thoroughly reviewed and vetted by a competent committee. I don’t see anything in the summary of these new rules that makes this possibility more likely.”
For more information or to set up an interview with Lawrence Norden or Eric Lane, please contact Jeanine Plant-Chirlin at 212–998–6289 or email@example.com.