NYC to Livecast Council Hearings — Meanwhile State Doesn’t Do Hearings for Important Bills

May 1, 2012

The New York City Council, with the mayor’s active help, will soon be livecasting and archiving all of its numerous committee hearings. Meanwhile in Albany, Governor Cuomo derided a reporters question about introducing campaign finance legislation for the public to see.

“You can take the public relations track of appearing to do something and I can put out my bill and rant and rave about it or I can actually get something done…I normally don’t put out a bill when we can actually get an agreement and pass something.”

This contrast between city and state once again reveals how abysmally low expectations are for basic democracy in Albany. In the New York City council — and other functioning democracies —  bills are introduced well before a vote and debated and discussed in committee hearings. In Albany,  our governor tells reporters that it’s “ranting and raving” to introduce legislation so it can be seen and understood by the public and members of the legislature.

The governor’s remarks are incredibly cynical, and are an embrace of “Three men in a room” back room deal making. They also directly contradict the recommendations in the Brennan Center’s famous “dysfunction” reports. Those reports are centered around the importance of the legislative committee process.

Brennan’s Still Broken: New York State Legislative Reform 2008 Update includes five recommendations.

1. Strengthen standing committees so that debate is robust and rank-and-file members can
force a hearing or a vote, even over the objections of the committee chair
2. End the leadership stranglehold on bills coming to the floor.
3. Allow ample opportunity for adequate review of all bills.
4. Provide all members with sufficient resources and opportunities to fully consider legislation
5. With respect to all of the above, make records of the legislative process transparent and easily
accessible to the public via the Internet.