Sunday, January 11, 2009

NY Democrats seize control of state Senate

History was made in Albany this past week as Senate Democrats took leadership control over the chamber for the first time in more than 40 years. Senator Malcolm Smith (D-Queens) was elected Majority Leader by a 32 – 29 vote on Wednesday. Smith pledged to reform the rules of the Senate.

“Imagine a fully functioning Legislature where Senate committees function like real committees, where members debate and even amend bills in the committee, where members of the majority and minority introduce bills onto the floor for a vote, and those votes are recorded," he said. Later Smith announced that a bipartisan committee had been created to examine the rules and would report back to the Senate by the end of September. Democrats now control both houses of the legislature and the executive branch.

New York Legislature tagged as still broken

The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School has called the New York State Legislature the most dysfunctional in the nation for the second time in five years. According to a recent report issued by NYU’s law school, New York State's legislature is still broken.
The report called it the most dysfunctional, anti-democratic, boss-ruled, slovenly legislature in the country.

The report says, “Most legislative standing committees met infrequently or not at all during 2006 and 2007. There were almost no hearings on major legislation. Not a single major bill was the subject of a detailed committee report.

Leadership maintained near total control over what bills reached the floor. And on the floor, there was little substantive debate; every bill brought to the floor for a vote in either chamber passed.”
The report cites the Senate, now under Democratic control for the first time in decades, as a glimmer of hope to bring real reform to the system that has been broken for years. To view the report, click here.

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