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Research Report

Executive Orders

Published: November 23, 2010

Like all New Yorkers, we wish Governor-elect Cuomo good luck as he tackles the state’s enormous problems. In this report we offer eleven model executive orders for the Governor to use to promote more open, accountable and democratic New York State government. Our model orders have been endorsed by leading civic and public interest groups. They are pragmatic, innovative, and offer the governor an opportunity to show New Yorkers that rapid, positive, change is achievable.

Much of Governor Cuomo’s political energy will be spent grinding out a tough, probably frustrating, budget with the state Legislature. The fiscal crisis is not an accident. It is the direct result of New York having an unaccountable and often irresponsible state government. Few New Yorkers know what their government is doing. Even experts have trouble deciphering the convoluted budget, or keeping track of last minute legislation. That’s by design. Our ignorance is Albany’s bliss. We the people can’t hold our government accountable if we don’t know what it is doing. That has to change.

Governor-elect Cuomo has pledged to reform Albany. We hope he does. He can start by issuing the eleven model orders in this report. They are tools designed to empower the citizenry, and the Governor. Some orders use the internet to open up government information and track what agencies are doing; others create a more transparent budget process; and others reduce, barriers to voting. All of them are crafted to be cost-effective, and result in large public benefits.

We hope our report inspires both immediate action, and more innovative thinking about the significant potential of executive orders to promote better government. Along with the model orders, our report includes important new research by noted New York government scholar Gerald Benjamin. He documents the evolution of executive powers in New York, their modern use, and important findings on the limits on the Governor’s authority to use them to reorganize state agencies.

We urge Governor-elect Cuomo to use these model orders, and this report, as part of a wider public campaign to reinvent New York State government, and to make it more open, accountable and democratic.