Senate Business

Senate Business


The Senators

As you look down at the floor, the Majority Conference is seated to the right of the center aisle facing the Senate Desk and in the last row to the left of the center aisle. Members of the Minority sit in the first two rows to the left of the center aisle.

The Lieutenant Governor, who is the President of the Senate, presides over the Senate from the raised desk at the front of the Chamber. In the absence of the Lieutenant Governor, the Temporary President designates a member of the Senate to preside.

The Staff

The Secretary of the Senate oversees staff activities at the Senate Desk directly below the Lieutenant Governor. A Journal Clerk and deputy clerks handle the routine duties of a session.

Seated to the left of the Lieutenant Governor is a parliamentarian who assures that established guidelines are followed in the Senate’s day-to-day operations.

At the Lieutenant Governor’s right is a chair for a member of the clergy who may deliver an opening prayer at the start of each day’s session.
Just in front of the Senate Desk are chairs for reporters from newspapers throughout the state. In front of them, in the well of the Chamber, is the official stenographer and a sound controller, who operates a console that opens or closes microphones on the Senators’ desks.

You will see attendants in blue blazers standing near the Chamber’s doors at the rear and sides of the room. They are the Sergeant-at-Arms and his deputies. Other deputies are assigned to the galleries so that visitors do not disturb floor proceedings.

The Sergeant-at-Arms permits only authorized personnel to enter the Chamber. When the Senate directs a “Call of the Senate,” the Sergeant-at-Arms is instructed to lock the Chamber doors to permit no Senator to leave during debate on an important bill. The Sergeant-at-Arms also is responsible for bringing absent Senators to the Chamber.

The Day's Business

The bills that have been introduced will be available on each Senator’s tablet located on their desk in the Senate Chamber. This provides quick reference when each bill is brought up for debate or a vote. 

The State Constitution provides that no bill can become law unless it has been on the desks of the Senators in its final form for three days before passage. An exception is made when a bill is presented with a Message of Necessity from the Governor. Such a Message, if accepted by the Senate, allows immediate action. 

In light of the passage of a constitutional amendment which provides that bills may be made available electronically at the Senator’s desk, as opposed to printed, the Senators now have computer tablets at their desks. When a bill reaches the Order of Third Reading on the calendar, it is ready for action by the full Senate. 

The Secretary of the Senate or a clerk designated by her reads the title of a bill when it is brought up for a vote. When debate is concluded, or if there is no debate, the last section of the bill is read and the roll of the Senators is called. Quite often it is done by what is known as a short roll call. All the Senators are considered to be voting “yes,” unless they indicate a “no” vote by raising their hands.

When a slow roll call is requested by a Senator, at least four other Senators must indicate they support the request. In a slow roll call, the names of all Senators are called for their votes. The rules of the Senate permit a member two minutes to explain his or her vote during either a short or slow roll call.

You may hear a Senator ask that a bill be laid aside for the day. This means that no action is taken at that time, but it may be considered again later.

A bill must be passed in identical form by both the Senate and the Assembly before it is sent to the Governor for his signature or veto. To expedite the procedure, a bill passed by the Senate may be substituted for an identical bill in the Assembly. When a bill is vetoed by the Governor, it may become law only if it repasses each house by a two-thirds vote.

Text Source: New York State Senate, Welcome to the New York State Senate Gallery (Albany, New York State Senate, 2019)