State Government: Working for the People?

January 27, 2005

It is no secret: people are fed up with our state government. People have had enough of the tired, exclusionary, dysfunctional ways of Albany - me included. New York has been, and continues to be, the laughingstock of the entire country. We have not passed an on-time budget in 20 years and, last year, we set the record for the latest-ever state budget.

Some of us are trying to break this streak, trying to end the embarrassment.

My Assembly minority colleagues and I have repeatedly called for action on a series of reforms that would drastically change, by improving, the way state business is done in Albany. Our reforms were proposed four years before the release of the Brennan Center report, which has so drastically criticized our state government. Our proposals would guarantee an on-time budget, make it more difficult to raise taxes and impose mandates, reduce the overburdened legislative agenda and require Assembly members to be present in order to cast a vote on legislation.

Most recently, the Assembly passed changes that do reform the Assembly rules. This is a great step, the first of many needed to create a better working government for New York. The changes require, among other things, that budget conference committee convene, an end to the practice of empty-seat voting, the Rules Committee actually hold public meetings with published agendas and for relaxation of the motion to discharge rule to allow rank-and-file members to more easily bring legislation to the floor.

The key to the passage of this legislation was the bipartisan manner in which it was presented and discussed. The Assembly minority and majority worked closely on this issue under the leadership of Minority Leader Charles Nesbitt and Speaker Sheldon Silver, to bring New York its first real stride on the road to reform.

With that said, there is still more to do, much more. The next step on my reform agenda, and that of my colleagues, is real and substantial budget reform. The entire Legislature needs to work together to develop a set of reforms that will bring New York an on-time, every time budget. My colleagues and I have been advocating on behalf of these reforms for years, and now is the time to make sure we, as legislators and residents of this great state, get it.

Join me and my Assembly minority colleagues in giving New York back to its rightful owners.

The Assembly minority conference has been trying to bring about effective change for years. My plea to you is to help me reform Albany and create a state government that is refreshed, inclusive and effective. Moreover, let there be honest and open debate so that the people of this state know where their representatives stand on every issue.