Winner, Colleagues Issue Own Report on Reform

George Winner

April 24, 2009

Albany, N.Y.–State Senator George Winner (R-C-I, Elmira) and his Republican counterparts on the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration have issued a report offering a series of additional recommendations for changing the way the Senate does business.

While the state Senate Democratic majority has been quick to praise a set of rules changes it recently recommended for full Senate consideration, Winner cautioned that those changes don’t go far enough.

“The new Senate majority has pledged this committee will be a 'path to reform' and it's our intention to hold them to their word.  There's plenty of work left to do to open up the legislative process to greater public scrutiny and to build a badly needed climate of cooperative action, accountability, and effectiveness,” said Winner. 

Winner said that the majority’s report failed to include numerous Republican recommendations, including initiatives to:

--  establish a clear process to bring legislation to a vote on the Senate floor.  Senate Republicans want either a mandatory vote once a bill reaches the floor for debate or the ability to automatically force a floor vote if a simple majority of senators, 51 percent, sign a petition;

-- ban the practice of allowing controversial legislation to be sponsored by the “Senate Rules Committee” as opposed to an individual legislator;

-- require the posting of an online “Active List” 24 hours in advance of the following day’s Senate session and committee agendas one week in advance, in order to give the public and media timely notice of upcoming legislative actions;

-- ban the Senate Majority Leader  from participating in secret policy or budget negotiations with the governor and Assembly Speaker, the so-called “three men in a room” practice so widely criticized by government reform advocates; and

-- require that any measure imposing a new local mandate or tax increase be listed on a separate mandate and tax calendar prior to legislative action.    

Winner is one of three Republicans on the nine-member Committee on Rules and Administration, a bipartisan panel convened earlier this year to recommend long-term reforms to the Senate’s rules and procedures. 

The Democratic members of the committee advanced a series of recommendations that still need to be considered and approved by the full Senate before taking effect.  The committee’s Republican members, including Winner, voted in favor of seeking an extension of the committee, but abstained from voting for or against the committee’s recommendations, which they were given just a few hours prior to today’s meeting and had little time to review. 

Winner said that the committee should remain in place at least through the end of next year to monitor the implementation of approved changes and to continue to recommend additional reforms.