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Legislation & Politics

Legislative Reform in Albany

In July, the New York State Senate passed a round of committee rules reforms, substantially altering the way legislation moves through the committees and is put to the Senate floor. To help the public better understand these changes, and to urge Senators to hold true to their reforms, the City Bar has prepared a ‘Roadmap’ outlining the new process.

Before, many bills simply died in committee, often at the wish of a single member. Now, upon motion of the sponsor, bills must be considered within 45 days of their introduction; and for the first time, if there is enough support, bills can be forced to the Senate floor. These important changes increase opportunities for Senators and advocacy groups alike to push their issues forward.

As the roadmap notes, there are now three main ways, previously non-existent, that a bill can move to consideration after it has been referred to committees. First, the sponsor can file a petition, with three-fifths Senate support, to move a bill to the floor. Second, a sponsor can file a motion forcing a committee chair to place the bill on the committee’s calendar. Third, once a bill has been moved to the senate floor, the sponsor can move for chamber consideration on the third reading calendar day. This is a substantial change from previous rules, when moving a bill to the floor was much more difficult, if not impossible.

The City Bar has long urged legislative reform, and most recently has urged the Senate to consider further revisions to the committee process. In a recent letter to the Senate Temporary Committee on Rules Reform, the City Bar called for detailed committee reports and fiscal analyses to accompany bills leaving committee, along with other steps to make committees more transparent.

The City Bar’s State Affairs Committee has in the past proposed plans to reform committees, resource allocation, and the handling of member items. In testimony last year, Loren Gesinsky, Chair of the State Affairs Committee, explained that, “[t]he fundamental attributes we want the Senate’s Rule to engender – openness, accountability, deliberativeness, and responsiveness – are ones the City Bar advocates for not just in connection with procedural issues, but also in connection with education, election, and other substantive issues.”

“The new rules will also provide additional entry points for the City Bar committees to advocate for the passage of bills they support,” noted Maria Cilenti, Director of Legislative Affairs.

“Now, Senators have fewer excuses for not getting their legislation into the debate. They have multiple opportunities to push their issues forward, which means advocacy groups must work hard to make sure that controversial debates and votes are not avoided,” said Gesinsky. “Following this roadmap will ensure the rubber meets the road.”

Read the City Bar’s ‘Roadmap’ here.
Read the State Affair’s Committee recent letter to the State Senate here.
Read Loren Gesinsky’s February testimony before the NY Senate Temporary Committee on Rules Reform here.
Contact the City Bar’s Legislative Affairs Department at 212.382.6655 or mcilenti@nycbar.org