An Albany lesson: A reminder that New York’s Legislature isn’t very democratic

Originally published in New York Daily News on May 30, 2021.

We thank Zach Williams, Albany correspondent for the political news outlet City & State, for illuminating how some legislators conduct the people’s business to suit their own needs.

He wrote last week of a small bill “authorizing the commissioner of education to conduct a study regarding courses of study on the Holocaust within the state.”

Our issue is not the bill, which lots of Democrats and Republicans in the Senate and Assembly support, but the opaque and anti-democratic manner it is being handled in the lower house.

With anti-Semitism disgustingly well and alive, including physical attacks on Jews, Sen. Anna Kaplan and Assemblywoman Nily Rozic revived a bill they’ve been pushing for a few years to see how Holocaust education mandates are being followed across New York.

State law requires all schools provide “instruction in patriotism, citizenship, civic education and values, our shared history of diversity, the role of history of diversity, the role of religious tolerance in this country, and human rights issues, with particular attention to the study of the inhumanity of genocide, slavery (including the freedom trail and underground railroad), the Holocaust, and the mass starvation in Ireland from 1845 to 1850.”

Education Committee Chairman Michael Benedetto isn’t a fan of the bill. Maybe he didn’t want the review or maybe he wants all of the delineated human rights subjects included. We don’t know what Bronxite Benedetto said during last Monday’s committee meeting because, even though Assembly committee sessions are live-streamed, there are no archives, which is very wrong (the Senate has long archived).

Williams reported on a bootleg video (bootleg legislative videos are a thing!) showing Benedetto arguing against the bill. In it, Benedetto moved to hold the bill but was apparently voted down. We can’t be sure because on the Assembly’s free website, there is no vote record. The same on the other, more advanced website that costs money to use (why?). Now this non-money bill is in the Ways and Means Committee. Forget it, Jake. It’s Albany.