Newly-elected State Senator Shirley L. Huntley (D-Queens) today criticized the Majority-controlled Senate for once again failing to deliver on their promise of legislative reform. The Senate Minority Conference recently proposed changes to the Senate rules that would increase participation of rank-and-file members by recording each vote a Senator takes, providing equal resources and making it easier for Senators to get their legislation voted on.
"I am very disappointed that Senate Majority blatantly disregarded a clear mandate from hardworking New Yorkers who demanded– at the polls last November– a more open, responsive Legislature," Senator Huntley said. "By rejecting proposals that would create a more democratic and transparent legislative process, the Senate Majority stands by a discredited and myopic view of how the Legislature should conduct its business."
The Senate Majority rules reinforce our current failed structure of centralized leadership control, Senator Huntley added. "Each Senator serves approximately the same number of constituents. Why then does the Senate Majority Leader get to distribute staff and resources according to his whims, withhold legislation from being voted on, and punish members who disagree with his leadership? This system, which essentially disenfranchises half the people of New York State, is a repudiation of the democratic process."
Senator Huntley said her 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 Huntley also noted that the SenateMinority 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.
"I was elected in large part to help transform the way business in conducted in Albany," Senator Huntley concluded. "This year, with the start of the Spitzer administration, we have a truly historic opportunity to bring greater transparency and accountability to the Senate. My Senate Minority colleagues and I will continue to press for legislative reform, restoring the ability of millions of New Yorkers to effectively influence state government through their elected officials. The days of an all-powerful leader who suppresses minority member participation must come to an end."