Last month, the leaders of eight New York good governance groups very politely asked the Legislature to pass seven worthy bills that increase transparency for the annual Sunshine Week, which ends today. In fact, during the week the state Senate and the Assembly did pass or advance to the parliamentary calendar more than seven open government bills, but none of them in both chambers, and as everyone knows, it takes two to tango and enact one law. .
Reinvent Albany, BetaNYC, Citizens Union, Common Cause, Empire Center for Public Policy, League of Women Voters, New York News Publishers Association, and New York Public Interest Research Group, having watched secrecy and behind-the-scenes deals for years. They were right in their hopes, but they can’t be surprised by the bad weather of Sunshine Week in Albany. And we’re not talking about the blizzard that hit the region.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie even publish a press release that his body “Approves Legislative Package in Honor of the National Sun Week”. Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins was not as transparently insincere as Heastie and refrained from issuing a press release, but her chamber passed a series of transparency laws, several unanimously. The only thing that agreed on the Assembly and Senate lists of the bills was that neither bill had a mate in the other chamber.
Watchdogs, having seen this Sunshine Week dance before, had specifically requested that the Assembly and Senate use the week dedicated to open government in honor of James Madison’s birthday to jointly pass bills.
It’s not that Democrats Heastie and Stewart-Cousins can’t coordinate their chambers to get their act together if they choose, even for some wildly unpopular legislation. They held a special session three days before Christmas to jointly approve a $32,000 pay raise that, in a state of 20 million people, only 213 legislators wanted. However, by making their own acts more open to the bill-paying public (and their new salaries of $142,000, the highest in the country), they just can’t agree.
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