Albany Needs A Reboot

In recent weeks, multiple columnists covering the state government beat have been writing about the dysfunction that is endemic to the New York State Capitol. Tom Precious of The Buffalo News is one voice that has weighed in on the topic.

TomPreciousIn a recent op-ed, Precious (pictured left) outlines problems with the typical end-of-session practices in Albany, including rank-and-file lawmakers being kept in the dark about closed-door negotiations between the Governor, the Senate Majority Leader, and the Speaker of the Assembly (long referred to as “three men in a room”); limited media availability by those “in the know”; and—of course—bills “rushed through the Senate and Assembly chambers for voting with little time for debate, much less the opportunity for anyone but their drafters to read them.”

According to Precious, “[b]etween Jan. 6, when the session started, and June 2, lawmakers gave final approval to 102 bills, including the series of bills that compose a more than $154 billion state budget last March and April. There were 50 session days during that period. But during just nine days of sessions in the final flurry—from June 6 until the sun came up June 18—legislators passed 516 bills.” Precious adds that “[in] the last days of the session, 143 new bills were introduced, [and] 26 of those new, last-minute bills were approved.”

Precious asks, “Is it a structural problem that Albany waits until the last days of the session to resolve so many major outstanding items? Or is it incompetence? Or is it just waiting until the last minute to finish a task?” According to Precious, all three of these reasons may help to explain the status quo—and the end-of-session flurry may also “[benefit] those who are able to wear down another side in a dispute.”

At New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, we offer another potential reason: The end-of-session rush benefits those in power by allowing them to ramrod bills through the Legislature without giving anyone adequate time to review them. For example, Gov. Cuomo’s end-of-session “ethics” package—known as the “Little Ugly”—was introduced and passed on the same day using the often-abused gubernatorial message of necessity. The bill consists of 31 pages and 11 subparts.

Regardless of the reasons for the status quo, one thing is clear: Albany badly needs a reboot.