The New York Senate Blog

Beyond Empire Zones

In these trying times, employing smart and effective policies to stimulate economic development is more important than ever. That's why the New York State Senate is revamping a key economic development incentive program to make it work better for New Yorkers across the state by launching the "Beyond Empire Zones" Task Force.

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Fostering A Vibrant Democracy Through Elections Reform

Voter turnout in 2008 tells the story of the state of registration and election laws in New York. According to data compiled by George Mason University, New York’s 58% turnout rate of voting eligible population for the 2008 general election was 43rd in the nation—or 7th worst.

New York’s laws governing voter registration and casting a ballot are among the most restrictive in the nation.  The deadline to register to vote is 25 days before an election, even though the limit under the state Constitution is 10 days. Unlike New York, 31 states offer early voting and a similar number allow no-excuse absentee voting.

Voter registration and other election-related laws matter because they have a direct impact on voter turnout, the lynchpin to a vibrant democracy.  Yet, as noted in The Right to Vote by Alexander Keyssar, a professor of at Harvard’s Kennedy School, voter registration laws at the turn of the 19th century were crafted in some states as a means to disenfranchise segments of the population that included minorities, the less educated and the poor.

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Another Chapter Unfolds In Rules Reform

Governor Mario M. Cuomo once famously said: “You campaign in poetry. You govern is prose.”

That prose sometimes unfolds in many chapters. The perfect example is reform of the legislative rules that govern the Senate. The Senate’s closed, leadership-driven culture was well documented, most notably by three reports from the Brennan Center for Justice: a 50-state analysis of legislative procedure in 2004; an update in 2006 that assessed rules changes; and a second update in 2008 that assessed new areas. (I was a co-author of the most recent report.)

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Senate Unveils Federal Stimulus Website

The New York State Senate is engaged in an unprecedented dialogue about how the federal stimulus funds will help ease economic woes across the state. In the worst fiscal crisis since the Great Depression, the Senate is committed to not only deploying the stimulus funds in an effective manner, but communicating openly and transparently with New Yorkers about where these taxpayer dollars are going.

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