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Nightmare legislation in New York
The New York State legislature, like the mistel that rages during the languishing of its landlord's trees, has been depriving the Empire State industry of vigour for years. Nowadays, the legislative is the main stumbling block to the Pataki government's pressure to diminish the state-level governance and foster economical growth: whatever advances the governing body makes without a thorough overhaul of the Senate's and Assembly's policies and practice, it will be difficult to maintain them.
A non-transparent legislation procedure protects legislators from being publicly accountable and allows organised interest groups to exert great leverage behind the scene. An excessive and expensive bureaucratic legislation is in the interests of policy-makers and those with political ties. More than two decades ago, a republican minority steered the State Senate, and a new democratic minority steered the State Convention.
This has resulted in the regime, through the two majority positions that pose over their disagreements while working together implicitly to take into account the ongoing interests of each individual, usually by investing more taxpayer sums. The state of New York is ruled by a unique Incumbency party that is primarily committed to maintaining its own powers and prerogatives.
There are many state breeds of legislation that are not even close to being able to compete. Of the 87 New York City 1994 voters, only 11 won less than two-thirds of the votes; in 43 rounds the victor got 80 per cent or more, while another 10 had no opponents at all. Throughout 1994, even as Republicans sweeped to the power in Congress and won 11 new governors, among them New York's, the party-wise equilibrium in the state's legislature only slightly changed: the Republicans enhanced their strenght in the 61member Senate through a seat, attaining a 36 to 25 majoritarian status, while the Democrats lost six seats in the 150 members convention, maintaining an 94 to 56 border.
In other states, however, democrats in other countries no longer had full sovereignty over 19 state houses of legislation. Similarly, the 1992 Sudanese democracy flood hardly created a wave in Albania; the Assembly Democrats won several places, and the Senate's parliamentary figures were the same. During the 1980s, the New York legislature had the highest fluctuation rates of any state legislature in the state, according to a survey by the NSC.
So far, attempts to amend the state's electoral legislation - so singularly confused that about half of the electoral disputes took place in the state of New York - have not been very successful. The legislature approved only minor changes and removed some of the trivialest grounds for disqualifying a candidate - for example, covering a request with a missing decimal point.
Even these changes favour the incumbent, observes Andrew Greenblatt, New York State Common Cause's chief executive mayor. The State of New York has not set ceilings on advertising expenditure, set stringent ceilings on contributions or publicly fund advertising to counter the tremendous benefit incumbent operators receive in fundraising. Every year, in a long-standing Albanian custom, the Assembly Democrats are proposing such reform, fully conscious that their bill will perish in the Republic Senate; after scoring some policy points, the Democrats will then let the issue calmly pale by the following year.
The ten most lavish policy making commissions gave $3.2 million to legislators in 1992, an 27 per cent rise from 1990 levels. New York State United Teachers was the biggest provider of contributions to law nominees, followed by local trade unions, health and justice groups and property interests. Fundraising technologies that even in Washington are taboo - such as "breakfast clubs", in which advocates are paying yearly fees for meeting privately with legislators - are commonplace in Albany.
Jerrymandering in the state of New York has reached a level of mastery that is otherwise rare, securing Albany's two greatities. Whilst many states pass on such a repartition to redistrict committees that work at least with a certain level of sovereignty over state legislators, New York has left the trial in the firm custody of the majoritarian group in each of them.
Re-districting the Assembly, in turn, heightened the Republicans' vulnerabilities. So Senate Republicans do not attempt to defense Assembly Republicans while Assembly Democrats are leaving their Senate Democrats to the Wolf. "There is nothing right in this trial," complained Clarence Rappleyea, minorities' chairman of the Assembly, after the 1992 law was passed.
Though Governor Cuomo cancelled the Senate's red-istricting plans this year as gross gangmandering, backing for the scheme within the two rooms was enough to resist a jeopardized veto that never realized in any case. The dominance of the majorities is not restricted to decades of redistribution.
Legislators of the minorities parties have little opportunity to accelerate or obstruct the legislative process; in fact, the extent of the personnel and budgets of the minorities parties is decided by the majorities parties. In 1994, Manfred Ohrenstein, who announced his resignation after 20 years as Senate minorities chairman, was asked by reporter to quote cases in which the Senate required democratically elected voices to passed important laws; he could only think of a few.
The former Congressman Stephen Solarz, a member of the Assembly from 1968 to 1974 when it was under government oversight, has summarized the experiences as "the US policy counterpart of the Gulag archipelago". "At the heart of the domination of the majority parties is a system of government that focuses authority in the hand of two people: the spokesman of the Assembly and the Senate's mayor.
They have extensive powers to appoint members of the committees, distribute benefits and assign the institution's budgetary and human ressources. The Senate's majoritarian ruler has the official powers to pass any bill - an "insurmountable one-person veto," says Andrew Greenblatt of Common Cause. In the mid-70s, the Parliament Speaker's official right to suspend all legislative proposals was abolished in order to democratise the legislative's own workings.
But, in reality, the speaker's capacity to unravel the law stays untouched; and, unlike in the Senate, this authority is now exerted in an informal manner, making it more difficult to say where or why a law has ceased to move. Most people in every home attach great importance to the protection of the most endangered members, e.g. the so-called "marginal" new arrivals or those from those areas normally under the control of the opposition.
In the event that the minority tries to increase taxation or adopt other unfavorable accounts, marginalities may cast a negative opinion against their party's positions, provided there are enough voices to be won without them. While Ralph Marino's term as the Senate's majoritarian chief from 1989 to 1994 accounts were almost never overthrown in an in fact poll; ordinarily when Marino was opposing a bit of lawmaking, he did not allow him to attain the Senate floor. t.
Increasing openness about state policy is a logical step; in the recent parliamentary election, New York has reached the bottom of the electoral trough. In other parts of the state, state legislatures have become a hotbed of dissatisfaction among the population, with the electorate angry at the selfish inside policies of established companies and interest groups.
The electorate in more than 20 countries has set time restrictions on their state officials. However, in New York State, the Legislation Department hardly ever shows up on the official radio screens - stealth legislation. Ignorance is particularly intense in New York City, where for a long time Albany was under the shadow of political action both locally and nationally; the Dutch media confines its tiny Albany reporting to the gov. historically a character of nationwide importance.
"There is no evidence of state legislature in New York City," says Gerald Benjamin, a policy analyst at the State University of New York. "Concealed from the eyes of the general population, the legislature has produced a huge motor for expenditure, taxes and debts. Most people in each House have strengthened their powers by passing on funds to interest groups and voters.
Every plurality has obediently permitted the other to show generosity upon its own energy basis - upward and the outskirts for Senate Republicans; New York City for Assembly Democrats - in return for a fairly clear hand to do the same. Essentially, the two main parties have settled their differences over budgetary prioritisation by agreed to devote more funds to everything.
Consequently, as New York State dwelt in the recession during the early 1990', Assembly Democrats and Senate Republicans followed the policy guranteed to halt Economic Growth: the lawmakers led a billion dollars plus net increases in taxes and dues each year from 1989 to 1994. As a consequence, New York continues to lose employment, even as the remainder of the country began to recover.
Fred Siegel, Cooper Union lecturer, says: "The legislature shares the cake mainly with all organised interest groups, both right and wrong, regardless of the vitality of the state economies. "Many of Albania's most powerful stakeholders, either part of the general interest industry or strongly linked to it, have an interest in high levels of state expenditure.
Trade unions that represent both the teacher and the official have strong coalitions with the majorities of both houses. In New York, the costs per student per year have risen to $9,000, more than 50 per cent above the country averages, as a result of teachers' pressure for higher outlays. CSA and the Public Employee Federation, which are among the most influential actors in Albanian policy, showed their strength at the beginning of this year, when both legislative houses of parliament agreed to increase pension levels for pensioners of the state and locally employed - a bust to the state coffers, which Governor Pataki rejected.
Most people in each House are tightly linked to groups that are careful not to cut New York State's $19 billion medicaid system: Republican Senate with clinics and care facilities, Assembly Democrats with patient groups and welfare organisations. Consequently, New York has created the most costly Medicaid system of any state, with generous fitness guidelines and almost anything optional benefit that the Washington allows.
In the early 1990', New York represented almost 20 per cent of Medicaid expenditures across the country, although the state has less than 10 per cent of Medicaid beneficiaries. Pataki's government has tried to control this policy mine field by disseminating the pains of its large Medicaid cutbacks among suppliers and recipients: the unintentional outcome could be a united front against any larger changes in the system, rather than the hostility of a single legislature.
The Senate Republicans have advocated remedies for sub-urban schools precincts along with jail compositions, which they view in part as a job programme for hinterland precincts. Gathering Democrats have given preference to charity, community housebuilding and other community programmes. State University of New York and New York Underwriters are government policyholders, the City University of New York and litigators democratically.
Unsurprisingly, this is one of Albania's large growing economies, with expenditure by interest groups to affect state legislature soaring from $5. 7 million in 1978 to $38. 5 million in 1993. Most of the most efficient advocates are former legislators or legislators who have a first-hand understanding of the lawmaking game. The former parliamentary president Mel Miller, who was expelled from his post in 1991 on a charge of defraud (he was later acquitted), came back to Albany a few years later as a advocate for healthcare firms and other customers.
As neither of these majorities can legislate without the other, the horse-trading is inexhaustible. In the 1994 budgetary talks, Assembly spokesman Sheldon Silver mocked the Republic' s proposal for company taxes to be lowered as "corporate welfare", but eventually went along with it as soon as the Republicans approved to give New York City $42 million of a $62 million debt recovery plan.
"Republicans and Democrats have generally gone into lurestep on many issues," says Thomas W. Carroll, a Pataki lead civil servant and former chairman of Change NY, a free markets fiscally monitoring group in Albania. "Almost two decades ago, after the mid-1970s Urban Development Corporation collapsed and the near insolvency of New York City, Governor Hugh Carey managed to put a temporary brake on Albany's control and spendingynamo.
It used its power of attorney to keep government expenditure in line with government expenditure on an inflationary basis. Over the next 12 years, the legislature and the Cuomo government increased expenditure by an annual rate of 7 per cent on the average. In New York, even the high tax rates were not enough to help finance this expenditure: the state has become more and more reliant on public-sector borrowings.
For example, last year Senate Republicans and Assembly Democrats elected to allow the New York State Highway Authority to release $225 million in debt without voters consent. Legislation has also provided two-party assistance to fill the state budgets with tens of billions of dollars for legislators' domestic animal welfare programs - seniors' civic centres, municipal sports associations, municipal heritage organizations - all of which are known, in a euphemistic sense, as "elements of members", "capital projects" and "legislative initiatives".
" By purchasing goodwill in the members' home regions, such ventures are almost completely hidden from the state. From time to time only an item attracts wider, usually negatives, advertising, like when the New York Times smelled the New York Times a Rat in Senator Nancy Larraine Hoffman's distribution of $75,000 to an upstate establishment named the Museum of Cheese.
Often on affairs that cannot be settled by higher expenditure, the Assembly Democrats and Senate Republicans corpse. The Republicans in 1994 murdered a democracy proposing a prohibition on offensive weapons. Meanwhile, the Democrats are derailing a "threestrikes-and-you're-out" law for abusive criminals, backed by both the Republicans and Governor Cuomo, who wanted it to be at the heart of his re-election drive.
Throughout 1993, the legislation was paralysed for weeks across Republican requests to amend New York City's rental settlements; Democrats finally consented to begin taking off rental shelter for a fistful of the richest lessees against a four-year detention of any further dispute of the tenancy settlement. Prosecutors of rental stabilisation included a number of lawmakers (including Saul Weprin, then the assembly spokesman) who themselves resided in rent-stabilised housing but were not called upon to release the fact when one votes on the issue.
The legislature, while chairing the enlargement of the state administration, has inflated itself with red tape. In the last ten years, the institution's total annual budgets have almost almost doubled, to 177 million dollars in 1994, the biggest of all state legislatures in the country. Legislators, with approximately 4,400 employees, are more than twice the size of the California legislature, which has 13 million more people.
Proclamator-Journal Syracuse released article last year detailing the attitudes of lawmakers of family, policy pals and ex-legislators, sometimes for jobs with poorly defined responsibilities. l. The Syracuse Herald-Journal has recently written a number of papers on the subject. Following Queens Democratic Assemblyman Morton Hillman's narrow loss of his re-election drive in 1992, the Assembly named him a dedicated associate of the Legislative Commission on the Water Resources Needs of Long Island, a reassembled post.
According the Herald-Journal, one in 10 lawmakers has had a relative on the legislature's payroll for the past two years - inclusive Senate majoritarian commander Joseph Bruno, whose subsidiary Susan until recently worked as a clerk for the Assembly's republican minority. Over the past two years, one of the legislators has had a family. There are also a number of benefits paid by the legislature, such as a number of dozens of cars for older legislators and their helpers.
When Ralph Marino was the Senate's controlling figure, he allocated himself two state cars: one for Albany, one for his house on Long Island. The expansion of personnel and the budgets has provided legislators with ever more effective tools to protect incumbents. During the legislature, many employees who provide constitutive service take time off during the legislature period to work on the campaign.
REPUBLIC senator John Daly's 15-minute week-long draft report, for example, has opened with Daly footage on the Senate grounds and at a press briefing, with a voice-over that says: "In Albany, struggling for you - Senator of State John Daly. "It is unnecessary to say that the legislature does not make it simple to read the household that is paying for all these things.
Applicably, processes recently have enforced greater candor for both rooms to soon begin releasing each member's individually listed issue records, something that Congress and many state legislations have been doing for years. Funding goes not only to individuals, but also to a tangled mess of bureaucracies and councils, such as the Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment, which recruits tens of staff for the re-districting processes that take place once every decad.
Legislative budgeting makes it possible to shift appropriations between expenditure headings at will. This kitten is not part of the legislative household and is checked by the heads of the institutions without being held accountable. As well as the largest employees and all government legislators' legislature accounts throughout the country, New York lawmakers have the largest salary checks, with basic pay of $57,500 per year, in most cases complemented by $6,500 to $30,000 in bonus payments per year, largely on the basis of comissions.
State legislators in other major states have a salary ranging from $52,500 to $7,200 per year in Texas. Also in many countries, impartial bodies impose legislation on wages - in contrast to New York, where the legislator controls his own remuneration, which is only tied to the demand that any increases be postponed to the next legislature period. Lawmakers have put forward convincing reasons on both sides as to whether state legislators should be full-time or part-time employees.
The majority of members, who see legislation as their main means of subsistence, are isolated from the state' s economy while concentrating on maintaining their own work. Simultaneously, the institution's conflicts of interest in external revenue are weak: lawmakers who are part-time electoral advocates have assisted in drafting the state electoral legislation, making it difficult, for example, to know whether the arcana legislation was drafted just to safeguard office holders or also to create work for members' companies in New York's profitable area of electoral disputes.
With the long tradition of New York State legislation of preventing significant reforms, there is not much reason for the optimistic view that the institutions will now undergo drastic changes. In an effort to be seen as a reformer, the legislative leadership could remedy some of the more apparent shortcomings of the institutions, but they are unlikely to dismantling the fundamental mechanism of officeholder security and self-sustainability of the minority.
"Humans don't alter any of the schemes that rewards them," says Gerald Benjamin, a policy analyst at State University of New York. Steps have recently been taken towards a more open legislature. Soon after becoming Senate majoritarian in January, Joseph Bruno dampened the House's policy of having nocturnal meetings, which in the past were a forum for editing last-minute dealings and adopting laws with little clout.
A year ago, the Assembly spokespersons Mr Brüno and Mr Sheldon Silver reached an agreement to set up a system of meeting commissions to compensate for legislative disparities between the Houses, with the aim of ending the yearly budgetary talks between the Senate governors, the Senate majoritarian and the Assembly spokesperson, of which Mr Pataki said he would have no part.
He has demanded that the state constitution be amended to limit the legislature's legislature's term of office and allow the electorate to hold referendums. Not surprisingly, the legislator shows little enthusiasm when it comes to restricting his own conditions, and he distrusts the possibility of a change of initiatives and referrals that threatens legislation powers. The electorate, not the legislature, has put the question on the ballots in practically every state that has imposed time restrictions (and time restrictions now apply in almost every state where the electorate has the right of initiative).
Voting campaigns around the nation have been cutting legislation, setting boundaries for increased taxes and otherwise removing authorities from the control of state legislators. Gubernatorial Pataki, who won his post with a fiscal promise and left a huge fiscal shortfall, is enjoying a favourable policy environment for reducing taxes and outlays. Senate Republicans seem more than normal willing to put their governmental limitations into action, partly mirroring the impact of the relatively right-wing Bruno.
Assembly Democrats are able to resist only to a certain extent, as some of their members are representing hinterland and suburbs where Pataki won handsomely. Against the backdrop of all this, however, the prospect of a state constitution treaty is emerging which would completely bypass the legislator. Every 20 years, the Constitution stipulates a referenda on the holding of a European Union Conventions; the next poll must take place by 1997.
They could consider amendments to the Constitution and propose them for voters' endorsement - from a time limit, a review of electoral advertising funding and a change in the sizes of legislators and wages to a demand for a super majority for increased taxes or for increased taxes to be subject to a people' s vote.