Reinvent Albany Applauds Session Free of Cynical, Transactional “Big Ugly”


Statement on 2021 End of Legislative Session

Dare We Hope? 

We Applaud Session Free of Cynical, Transactional “Big Ugly” 

For whatever reason, New York’s 2021 legislative session ended without the “Big Ugly” bill that is typically voted on at 2am on the last day of session without any public review. The Big Ugly is the worst of Albany – it’s a giant, often error-filled mass of legislation that results from a frenzy of secretive and often scurvy deal-making between legislative leaders and the Governor that would never survive the glare of public scrutiny. If Albany is to emerge from endless scandal and a pay-to-play culture, the legislature and powerful interest groups need to move beyond an ends-justifies-the-means mentality and help dump the Big Ugly.

Make Legislative Changes to MTA in the Light of Day
Unfortunately, making major changes to the hapless MTA is often at the top of Governor Cuomo’s Big Ugly wish list. In the waning days of this year’s session, with no public notification or consultation, the Governor proposed splitting the top job at the MTA into two. The unified leadership position was created in 2009 after a lengthy public assessment of the MTA, led by Richard Ravitch. Reinvent Albany opposed the Governor’s last-second proposal, as did prominent transit, labor and advocacy groups.

Fortunately, at the very last minute, the State Senate decided to not vote on the Governor’s proposal. We commend the State Senate and ask that it hold a public hearing on MTA governance before taking up any new proposals through a regular – not rushed – legislative process. Unfortunately, the Assembly passed an amended version of the MTA bill through a message of necessity in the middle of the night.

Transparency Highlights
The state legislature also passed a number of bills that advocates have been pushing for years, such as the MTA Open Data Act, which will bring much-needed transparency to the MTA, the nation’s largest public authority. We ask the Governor to sign this important legislation, which codifies his own open data executive order. We also thank the legislature for passing the following:

The budget was also one of the best in recent memory, rejecting raids on MTA funds and taking steps to end NY’s tax break for the federal Opportunity Zones program, a widely derided handout to real estate. Later, the State Senate passed laudable bills that would strengthen ethics enforcement, sexual harassment laws, and oversight of public authorities. These bills await final action by the Assembly.