Bipartisan Operating Agreements for Tied Legislatures in Other States and in the U.S. Senate

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The New York State Senate remains deadlocked with 31 Senators in the Democratic Conference and 31 Senators affiliated with the Republican Conference.

Article III § 9 of the constitution dictates that in order to conduct business in the chamber, there must be a majority of Senators elected – 32 Senators — to have a quorum to conduct legislative business.

Over the past 40 years there have been dozens of examples of legislatures, including the United States Senate, that have developed bipartisan operating agreements to allow the passage of essential legislation and assure stable functioning of floor operations during the deadlock.

The following reports were prepared as background for consideration of a bipartisan operating agreement for the New York State Senate during the coming days, and includes the full text of several bipartisan operating agreements.

Find the Report Summary and examples of bipartisan operating agreements from New Jersey and Indiana here.

For examples from Michigan, Maine and Montana, see here.

For examples from Oklahoma, Washington State, and the U.S. Senate, see here.

Your Comments

call to action

Senator, someone needs to break ranks and be the voice of reason. This can not be an issue of right vs left. It has to be about the well being of our state as a whole. Allowing party differences to harm government on every level harms all of us. I'm asking you to be that person who says enough. Set the example for all to follow. Be the bigger person and do what is needed to get our government back to a place where it can function. Children look to adults to set the proper example. They learn fairness by witnessing it first hand. Show them that, although not perfect, the system works. Show them that the use of force has no place within our government. Show them how our elected leaders can take a adversarial situation and turn it into something positive. Above all, lead by an example you can be proud of. DUI Lawyer Los Angeles

As a long time State employee and former local union president I am shocked that the Senate is engaging in a job action against the people of New York and there is no mention of it being a strike.<br> NYS Civil Service law Article 14, the infamous "Taylor Law" starts with the following statement: "The legislature of the state of New York declares that it is the public policy of the state and the purpose of this act to promote harmonious and cooperative relationships between government and its employees and to protect the public by assuring, at all times, the orderly and uninterrupted operations and functions of government." (Apparently the Legislature does not think itself obligated to protect the public from it's own job actions in the same manner.) Section 201 Subsection 9 states: "The term "strike" means any strike or other concerted stoppage of work or slowdown by public employees." Surely, the well orchestrated actions of the Senate constitute a "concerted stoppage of work". Section 210 Subsection 1 prohibits strikes: "No public employee or employee organization shall engage in a strike, and no public employee or employee organization shall cause, instigate, encourage, or condone a strike." Section 210 Subsection 2a further states: " A public employee shall violate this subdivision by engaging in a strike or violating paragraph (c) of this subdivision and shall be liable as provided in this subdivision pursuant to the procedures contained herein. In addition, any public employee who violates subdivision one of this section may be subject to removal or other disciplinary action provided by law for misconduct. Over the years, I was often frustrated by the actions of Administration Officials. As a union representative it would have been much easier to call for a job action than to go through the lengthy processes and procedures of the Taylor Law. But that would have been illegal. Employees are required to abide by Civil Service law as a condition of employment. It's a shame that the members of the NYS Senate think themselves above the laws that the rest of us have to follow.

This is an email I sent to my local Senator last night. It can be applied to all Senators.

 

 

I am writing you today regarding the recent activity, or lack of, within the New York State Senate. As a parent and School Board Member, I have serious concerns as to how the events of the past few weeks will impact the future generations of children within New York State. You have always demonstrated an open door approach to constituent concerns and I hope you will continue to do so given the seriousness of the issue at hand.

 

I have always encouraged my children to have faith in the government process. I have attempted to instill right vs wrong instead of left vs right. Although our system has flaws, we have the ability to use the electoral process to keep the scales balanced. From there, it is our responsibility to keep abreast of the legislative process and if necessary make the necessary adjustments in the following election season.

 

I little more that a year ago I had the opportunity to show my daughter first hand how to be an active participant in the legislative process. She was able to witness first hand how individuals from all areas of the state can come together and form an alliance to lobby for change. She had the opportunity to not just meet with you and several of your colleges, but the Governors staff as well. She witnessed concerned citizens and elected leaders work together within the established rules to redraft a vetoed bill that was eventually signed into law. That is an example I have referred to countless times this past year to demonstrate that, although not perfect, the system does work.

 

Unfortunately, the events of the past few weeks have served as an ever present reminder to my daughter that the system works best for those willing to use force to manipulate the outcome. The will of the people, so to speak, has been disregarded. Although I'm confident that all involved believe they are acting in the best interest of New York State, they couldn't be more wrong in that assumption. It is simply not possible for either political party to create substantial reform for a system that took decades to create. To lay claim to the notion that one party has not created a workable plan of action in a few short months is insulting to the constituents you represent.

 

A few short years ago an arm of New York State declared the City of Buffalo in need of adult supervision. Just last week another arm, using a bit more tact, declared the same thing of the Lewiston-Porter School Board. My biggest question at this point is, who will provide the adult supervision for the Senate?

 

Below is an excerpt from the New York State Participation in Government Curriculum that can be found here http://www.emsc.nysed.gov/ciai/socst/pub/partgov.pdf .

 

Comparative and International Perspectives. Key Idea 1 uses comparative and philosophical

thinking to explore how other political cultures perceive public issues. Here is another good opportunity

for a discussion of major values perspectives and philosophical differences. Students should be able to distinguish

between public policy stances in authoritarian versus nonauthoritarian regimes, statist systems

(i.e., heavily bureaucratic, government-centered) versus individualistic systems (i.e., individual-centered,

market-driven), and modern cultures (legalistic, rationalistic) versus traditionalistic cultures (traditional,

family-based).

 

In all honesty, what public policy stance was just modeled by the Senate?

 

I find the justification of the unfairness felt by the minority party incredibility hypocritical. Is this not the same system that has been employed for decades? Why is it that just now it is being seem as wholly unfair?

 

When faced with leadership you do not approve of, use the same system you have enforced while in office. By all means, find a way to change what you now perceive as an unfair balance of government, but use the established practice.

 

The situation has gotten well past a black eye for the Senate. The State as a whole has been tarnished by this situation. What ever the reasons behind the actions that led to this, the end result has been the New York State Government has ground to a screeching halt. That has cause a ripple effect and has had negative consequence at all levels of government.

 

Senator, someone needs to break ranks and be the voice of reason. This can not be an issue of right vs left. It has to be about the well being of our state as a whole. Allowing party differences to harm government on every level harms all of us. I'm asking you to be that person who says enough. Set the example for all to follow. Be the bigger person and do what is needed to get our government back to a place where it can function. Children look to adults to set the proper example. They learn fairness by witnessing it first hand. Show them that, although not perfect, the system works. Show them that the use of force has no place within our government. Show them how our elected leaders can take a adversarial situation and turn it into something positive. Above all, lead by an example you can be proud of.

 

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to voice my concerns. I hope you will consider my thoughts in the coming days while navigating through this difficult situation. Most of all, I hope I will be able to point to your actions as a positive example to my daughter that the “system” is there to protect us and it works.

Senators, do you remember that you work for us, the people of the state of New York? Get over your egos and do what you are getting paid to do! The state needs adults, not children.

It is astounding that come election time, you all seem to care about us New Yorkers. Clearly, none of you do. If you cared about the very people who gave you the power you are now abusing, you would stop this nonsense.

We are not paying you to act like little children with no manners. So stop. Grow up. Get over yourselves. Learn to compromise. And get things done.

(I hope none of you expect to be reelected. None of you deserve it.)

Dear Senators:

 

I am writing to express my extreme displeasure at the state of affairs that currently masquerades as democratic government in the New York State Senate.  It’s not that I haven’t seen uglier, greedier processes grab the attractive painted mask of democracy to hide their less attractive faces before, but I did (and do) cherish some hope that the rhetoric of equal political voice for all citizens, regardless of how much money or social clout they have, might in the final analysis prove a stronger force than endless power struggles among the very, very powerful, while the rest of us are political pawns or literal cannon fodder.

 

My hope is not being proven very viable by the situation in the Senate.  What I find most disturbing is the role of Tom Golisano, a man whose overweening wealth and matching arrogance should not, by any theory of what democracy and citizenship mean, give him any more power in the democratic process than I have.  And yet, because of his insane greed— I am sorry he felt slighted in his meetings, and I’m sure I would not enjoy trying to express my point of view while one of you fiddled with a Blackberry, but the unmitigated, disgusting gall of the man, in this economic climate, or, frankly, in any economic climate we have ever enjoyed in this wealthy nation where every day people sleep in the streets and die from preventable diseases, to dare and try to use his wealth to prevent his taxes from being raised when this would in no conceivable way wound his quality of life in the slightest, appalls me beyond measure—because of his insane greed, he has dared to claim in actions that his money is his value, as far as his representation in the government is concerned.

 

And you, collectively, have proven him right.  You have handed the reins of the government to the highest bidder, some to enhance your own power, some out of meekness or fear or overblown party rivalry.

 

That being done, you continue to behave in disgraceful, power-hungry, foolish ways, locking each other out of the building, stealing symbolic items back and forth, and now holding competing sessions at the same time!  I do not pretend to know exactly how this crisis should be solved, but I am sure that everyone passing bills in split session is not going to work, and I am also sure that until people are willing to speak calmly with one another and forgo hysterical displays of false supremacy, no progress will be made.  Have a meeting.  Give something up.  Share power, if you must, for you must in any case, being so neatly split down the middle.  So, please, do it gracefully, and do it efficiently, and do it now.

 

I will tell you who is waiting on you, if you care to know.  I am, for one.  I am twenty-seven years old and I work part time (thankfully, at a job that allows me to support myself) because I have not been able to find full time work in a year.  I have also been uninsured since then, and have not been able to seek medical help for a recurring stomach condition.  I am a bisexual woman and I live with my girlfriend, and I am continually stymied by the fact that, should I end up with a female life-partner, I will not be protected or supported by my government in the way I would be if I ended up with a man.  I am white, and I am educated, and so to some extent I am given the benefit of the doubt by society.  I have no illusions but that I am one of the relatively lucky ones in our current economic situation (perhaps Mr. Golisano is burdened by contrary illusions of his own?), but I am waiting on you nonetheless.

 

As are the less lucky, who I see every day sitting in makeshift shelters by the subway and riding barefoot on the cars.  And so many I don’t see, because they don’t have the money for the subway and they don’t happen to have a little shelter in my path.  They are here, all across this state, and they are waiting for you to stop playing games and remember whom you represent.  Not Mr. Golisano more than any one of us.  Not your own parties and their power-brokering more than each person in your district and your state.  We are waiting on you.  If you have some real belief in our worth, pay attention to us.  It’s a reciprocal gaze, and you will find your conduct now has a great impact on your re-election in the future, without doubt.  More importantly, though—how I hope to you it is more importantly—it is time to remember what it really is to be a public servant.  This is surely not it.

 

Sincerely,

 

Rebecca 

 

Is it too much to ask for the members of the New York State Senate, presumably all adults, to act as such? As a parent, I would not allow this behavior from either of my children. It is immoral to receive and cash a paycheck when no work is being done. Stop the nonsense and do what you were all elected to do, which is govern!

We need a public press conference

I think it would be good to publicly call to account the entire Senate in this deadlock. It is the fault of all, not just one side of the aisle or the other. What I would like to see is a press conference where the senators are questioned by their constituents. I don't  imagine this will happen, but wouldn't it be a good thing for those of us who live in this state and abide by its laws to hear what the senators, who apparently spend their days behind closed doors working out deals, have to say to our questions?

Open government is an essential part of a real democracy. I believe our New York State senators need to rethink their participation in our government. The Senate is not their personal power base. It is the body elected by residents of this state to create and maintain a framework we can reasonably live with and by.

This kind of foolish behavior on the part of our New York State Senate is distressing in the extreme and results directly in voter apathy.

Please, I beg all the New York State senators on both sides of the aisle to stop this futile bickering and use your minds and your hearts. Remember why you are there. Help us; don't spurn us. This behavior on your part shows the emptiness of all your campaign promises. Stop, think, and do the right thing.

If the Senate is not conducting any business, then their payroll money is unearned. Do the members have an employment contract which stipulates pay is guaranteed during layoffs?

If an employer is closed until further notice, the employees are usually laid-off with no pay. Unemployment insurance may be applied for when legally allowed. Benefits may be continued through COBRA.

NYS Senators are aware of this because they are responsible for NYS Labor Law.

Is there a legal exemption for such a situation as this?

You've raised some very interesting question and made excellent points.

Jessica

Bipartisan Operating Agreement