News From The News From The Temporary Committee On Rules Reform

Malcolm A. Smith

February 06, 2009


The State Senate’s Temporary Committee on Rules and Administration Reform held its first public hearing of four planned across the state, and heard from several good government groups, regional reform advocates and a former state senator.  The hearing was hosted at Syracuse City Hall by Reform Committee Co-Chairs State Sen. David Valesky and State Sen. John Bonacic. 
“Our bipartisan goal is to create a State Senate that is more open, responsive and responsible.  To do that we are starting with input from the very public we are meant to serve, from the advocates who have challenged the status quo, and from the individuals who have witnessed the legislature’s dysfunction first hand,” said State Sen. David Valesky, Co-Chair.  “What we begin today is a public process that will help us establish a more deliberative body.”
State Senator John Bonacic said, “All New Yorkers are equal and their representatives deserve equal resources, equal ability to advance ideas and meet the needs of the communities they represent.  Hearings are helpful, but the work of the Reform committee will be measured in results, not rhetoric.”
Leading off the day’s testimony was long-time reform advocate and former State Sen. Nancy Larraine Hoffmann: “I'm proud to lend my support to Senator Valesky and the Rules Reform Committee as they begin the important job of determining how to redesign the legislature so that it will serve the people of the state, not political interests.  This is a special time.  With new leadership in the Senate after 40 years there is an opportunity to clean the slate.”
Hoffmann continued, “Senators who have served in the minority understand all-too-well that when Albany party bosses treat certain members as second-class legislators, it is ultimately the taxpayers and the state which suffer.  Not only are towns, villages, and cities of the state shortchanged in programs and projects, but thoughtful and experienced Senators ready to meet the challenges of the state are not even allowed a seat at the table.  Clearly, that style of government has to stop.”
The Committee heard from representatives of several good government groups and academics.  The League of Women Voters representative, Syracuse Metro League Co-President Joan Johnson testified, “We applaud the Senate Democratic majority for convening for convening this bi-partisan temporary committee to examine the Senate rules and provide some areas for consensus among your conferences and real reform for the New York citizen.  The League believes that in a representative democracy the rules under which the Legislature makes its decisions significantly affect policy choices by lawmakers.”   
The Committee also heard testimony concerning the better use of technology from Deb Warner, representing the Greater Syracuse Chamber of Commerce.  
“We would welcome more public hearings on important pieces of legislation, both in the districts and in Albany,” Ms. Warner testified.  “Online, virtual public hearings as video web casts or pod casts would be a good way to expand voter interaction and input.  This will offer you additional contact with your districts as they have increased interaction with you as their representative.”  Ms. Warner concluded, “The Chamber and our members support the goals of the Committee and look forward to your final recommendations.” 
Close to twenty witnesses testified today in Syracuse.  Additional hearings are planned for Albany on February 10th, New York City on February 26th, and Brookhaven Long Island on February 27th.  The Hearings are open to the public.  Speakers are asked to notify the committee of their intention to testify, and submit written testimony prior to the hearing.   Those wishing to testify at future hearings are asked to contact Ariana Caplan, at (518)-455-2838, (, or Langdon Chapman at (518) 455-3181, (  
Due to time constraints, not every person wishing to testify will be guaranteed the opportunity to speak.  However, anyone unable to give oral testimony or unable to attend is encouraged to submit written testimony to the committee at