Senator Parker Says Senate Majority's Reform Efforts Accomplish Little

Kevin S. Parker

February 02, 2005

Saying "the Senate Majorityhas turned their backs on the interests of New Yorkers," State Senator Kevin S. Parker (D- Brooklyn) today criticized the Senate’s adoption of rules for the 2005-06 session.

"From Buffalo, to Bath, to Brooklyn and to Brookhaven, theMajority memberssaid they would change the way business is done in Albany during the 2004 campaign for State Senate seats all across New York State. In the end, little has changed," Senator Parker said.

The Brooklyn lawmaker noted that only two weeks before the passage of the new rules, SenateMajority members invited their Minority colleagues to sit in on the discussion of the rules, and how they could be changed to benefit all lawmakers.

"I was thrilled by the invitation, and truly encouraged by this gesture. The rules adopted proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that the gesture was incredibly empty," Senator Parker said, noting that the SenateMinority andMajority agreed on only one of the proposed changes presented during the debate -- an end to empty seat voting.

He added that the SenateMinority has been on the front lines of the battle for reform for several years now, noting that the conference’s Task Force on Legislative and Budgetary Reform made several substantive proposals.

"During debate on the rules, we introduced several amendments that would have improved the democratic process. Unfortunately, the SenateMajority rejected each and every proposal," Senator Parker said.

The most egregious action, according to Senator Parker, was rejection of the proposal that would have eliminated the "canvass of agreement." This process was instituted by the SenateMajority in 2001, and allows them not to let their positions on important issues be recorded when theMinority membersmotion to bring a bill to the floor.

"Why would the SenateMajority membersnot want their positions on legislation be known? In Eastern Europe, people got rid of secrecy in government 15 years ago. It’s a shame that the Senate continues to operate in secrecy," Senator Parker said.

Among the other proposals introduced by the SenateMinority during a four-hour debate were: increasing the debate time limit from two hours to five hours; prohibiting committee meetings from taking place off the Senate floor; requiring a two-thirds vote to accept a message of necessity from the Governor; allowing the Ranking Minority member of a committee or any three committee members to place a bill on a committee agenda; removing the restrictions on the ability of any Senator to bring a motion to discharge; and eliminating the Rules Committee and returning control of bills to individual committees.

"New Yorkers expressed a clear desire to see change in Albany. It is unfortunate that SenateMajority membersrefuse to bring openness and accountability to the State Senate," Senator Parker concluded.