Push By Senate Democrats To Modify Senate Rules Ends With The Same Old Story

Martin Malavé Dilan

January 22, 2007

State Senator Martin Malavé Dilan (D-Brooklyn) announced that during session in Albany on Tuesday January 16, 2007 the SenateMinority Conferenceattempted to put forth a rules reform package that would bring real changes to the way the State Senate operates.

“What we are trying to do is give the citizens that live in districts like mine, districts represented by Members of the Senate Minority, the same voice and resources that are afforded to the rest of the state. Simply because of my party affiliation in theGOP controlled Senate, my constituents have traditionally been left behind,” Senator Dilan said.

The SenateMinority's proposals included providing equal staff and resource allocation for all members regardless of their party affiliation, allowing rank and file members the opportunity to get a bill to the Senate floor for a vote, recording votes on all business to come before the Senate and full disclosure of member items – including the name of the Senator, the recipient and the amount of funding. Each of these 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 Citizen’s Union.

“We need a Senate that operates independently of the stranglehold of its leader. As a member, I have a responsibility to the citizens who voted for me. Under the current rules, I must work within a corrupt and secretive framework in which it is incredibly difficult to provide the services and author the legislation that can truly make a difference for those within my district who need it most. We have attempted to work with ourMajority Conferencecounterparts but their leadership has had no interest in creating a Senate that will work for all the residents of New York State, unfortunately they have clearly shown that they are only interested in protecting their own interests,” said Senator Dilan.

On the Senate floor,Minority Confernce Memberscalled for a slow role call vote when it came time to vote on their reform package. After over 90 minutes of debate about the rules that dictate the voting procedure, theMajority was able to avoid having their negative votes recorded in the public record by using the old “canvass of agreement” statute, which does not associate names to aye and nay votes. Therefore,Majority ConferenceSenators were able to get away with voting against reform without having their name attached to it.

“We, as a Legislative body, had an opportunity to do the right thing, to do what the majority of voters in New York demanded last November. We had the opportunity to repair a broken piece of State government, but we were stopped short by the old ways of the stubborn Majority Conference leadership. I hope in two years the voters remember this day and again vote for change that will bring equality, fairness and accountability back to the Senate,” Senator Dilan concluded.