A Hometown View From Albany
Lawmakers in the New York State Assembly passed 1,073 bills during the 62-day legislative session that stretched over a six-month period. Many more bills were proposed. How successful our four area Assem-blymembers were depends upon who you ask. Lawmakers argue that the number of bills that get passed does not matter because it takes approximately seven years to get major legislation crafted, making sure the legislation is acceptable to the leadership in both houses and signed by the governor.
The cost to draft legislation, print, and distribute each bill is estimated to be $3,000. You do the math, as the saying goes. Lawmakers admit that most bills are drafted and introduced to appease a constituent or a particular interest group, even though all parties know the measure doesn't stand a chance of being passed. Is that a waste of taxpayer dollars? Not to lawmakers, who maintain they are doing the work of their constituents.
Here's a rundown of how area Assembly lawmakers fared during this session with their legislation:
Alan Maisel, Chairperson, Majority House Operations and Commission on Solid Waste Management: 39 prime sponsored bills; 481 co-sponsored bills; 515 of the 520 bills languished in committee, never went anywhere; 4 bills passed the Assembly ONLY; 1 bill passed both houses, signed into law. The measure Maisel got passed makes technical changes to the 2011 bill that merged the state Division of Parole with the Department of Correctional Services; far from groundbreaking legislation.
Maisel did have a couple of other bills that went nowhere fast, including, requiring companies that distribute phone books to collect the books for recycling. Another less-than-stellar bill, but one he says is a favorite, is the prohibition of selling, distributing, or trading shark fins. On a more serious note, Maisel also wanted to create a “deadbeats most wanted list” for those people owing more than $10,000 in child support payments. That proposal never made it out of the Assembly Social Services committee.
Inez Barron, holds no committee chairmanship or leadership post: 24 prime sponsored bills; 290 co-sponsored bills; 311 of the 314 bills languished in committee; 2 bills passed the Assembly ONLY, 1 bill passed both houses and awaits the governor's signature. The one bill Barron got passed in both houses is aimed at protecting potential homeowners from unnecessarily high interest rates by unscrupulous mortgage brokers who would want to capture higher fees paid to them by the bank, known as yield spread premiums. Even though the legislative session ended almost two months ago, the measure was sent to the governor just last week and awaits his signature.
Nick Perry, Deputy Majority Leader: 102 prime sponsored bills; 280 co-sponsored bills; 374 of the 382 bills languished in committee, never went anywhere; 5 bills passed the Assembly ONLY; 3 bills passed both houses; 2 bills signed into law; 1 bill awaits governor's signature. One bill that Perry got signed into law allows the Tabernacle of Praise Church on Utica Avenue to receive tax-exempt status, although church leaders did not file the proper paperwork in a timely fashion. Due to this oversight, a law had to be crafted in order to correct the omission by church elders.
Perry also carried another measure to repeal a law requiring boats less than 26 feet in length to have capacity plates, similar to the capacity signs you see in restaurants or elevators. The bill Perry is waiting for the governor to decide on prohibits pay-per-call prize schemes for charging customers more for the call than the prize is worth. The lawmaker says these telemarketing scams are a $3 million industry in New York state. An estimated 500,000 New Yorkers have been scammed by this scheme.
Winding its way through the multiyear process it takes to get legislation passed is Perry’s “A Chance to Help Act,” which would require a police officer, upon arresting a youth, to notify the person legally responsible for the youth.
Helene Weinstein, Chairperson, Judiciary Committee: 45 prime sponsored bills; 71 co-sponsored bills; 86 of the 116 bills languished in committee; 20 bills passed the Assembly ONLY; 10 bills passed both houses; 4 bills signed into law; 2 bills vetoed; 4 bills await the governor's signature. Sometimes the chairperson of a committee has their own bills bottled up in their own committee. Weinstein, chair of the powerful Judiciary Committee, has at least two such measures.
While Weinstein has the best batting average among area lawmakers for getting bills passed in both houses, the measures she sponsors are mundane and often extend expiration dates or correct existing law. One measure, which is a pilot program, would extend e-filing of court cases and motions by fax or computer, now done in civil court cases, to criminal and family courts in some areas of the state, if both sides to the lawsuit agree.
Passing bills is only part of the cost of doing legislative business. Is it worth it? Maybe there should be a cap on the number of bills introduced in the Legislature in order to keep costs down.
Let your legislator know how you feel about this.