Senator Serrano Urges Gop-controlled Senate To Reform Its Rules To Make Legislature More Open And Democratic

José M. Serrano

January 17, 2007

State Senator José M. Serrano (D-Manhattan) today criticized the Senate Majority for failing to deliver on their promise of reform. The SenateMinority Conference yesterday proposed changes to the Senate rules that would increase participation of rank-and-file members and raise ethic standards by recording each vote, providing equal resources and making it easier for senators to get their legislation voted on.

The days of a powerful centralized leader who controls every aspect of a member’s legislative agenda and suppresses minority participation and dissent are over," said Senator Serrano. "Last November, voters drew a line in the sand demanding New York reform its corrupt and undemocratic ways. I am very disappointed that once again, the SenateMajority's leadership has failed to heed a clear message from millions of hardworking New Yorkers."

"What I have always argued is that each of the 62 Senators in this body roughly serve the same number of New Yorkers and should be treated equally," said Senator Serrano. "The fact that the Senate Majority Leader gets to parse out staff willy-nilly, withhold legislation from being voted on, and punish any member who disagrees with his leadership is not only an insult to each member and the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who voted for that member, but is a repudiation of the democratic process itself."

Senator Serrano said his proposals include: recording every vote a Senator takes on resolutions and motions to petition; providing each lawmaker with the same number of staff and resources similar to the United States Congress; providing full disclosure of member items including the sponsor’s name, the recipient and amount of funding; prohibiting member items to private for-profit organizations; banning gifts to members except nominal gifts; and changing the rules to make it easier for all members to get a bill on the floor for a vote by the full Senate.

Senator Serrano also noted the SenateMinority's proposals have the full support of the Brennan Center for Justice, the League of Women Voters, Common Cause, the New York Public Interest Research Group and Citizens’ Union, who together released a letter calling on all Senators to vote for these reforms.

"While I applaud the budget reforms that Governor Spitzer recently proposed and will continue to partner with him to open up the budget process, I urge SenateMajority Membersto adopt these proposed rules changes to bring more transparency and accountability to the Senate," said Senator Serrano.

"We have tried to negotiate in good faith with theSenate Majority. We have gone on record stating that we will institute each and every one of these recommendations when we become the majority party in the Senate. We have the backing of every major good government group in the state. What’s more, we have a mandate from voters who elected Governor Spitzer and ourMinority Conference on a reform platform. And still the SenateMajority have dug themselves in a hole and refused to listen," said Senator Serrano.