Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Who's to blame?

The Post-Standard newspaper of Syracuse published a very interesting editorial on the New York state Legislature. It was so good, that we present it here in it entirety, since it reflects our thinking.
New York's state Legislature has been labeled the most dysfunctional lawmaking body in the nation.

Actually, that's wrong. It really functions quite well - for the secretive politicians who control its chambers and the special interests that grease their palms. As for serving the people of New York - well, that's another story.

It's no surprise, then, that the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University's School of Law says legislators have made little progress in recent years on reforming how they conduct the public's business.

The Legislature is still beset by gridlock on major issues. Rank-and-file lawmakers are still shut out of the decision-making process by their despotic leaders. The public still is denied access to basic information on how millions of dollars in public money will be spent. And crucial elements of the legislative process, such as meaningful floor debates, committee hearings and the use of conference committees to reconcile differences in bills, are still hard to come by.

Oh, legislators did make a few changes since the Brennan Center released its landmark study of the Legislature in 2004, along with solid recommendations for improvement.

After 20 years of late budgets, lawmakers finally passed on-time spending plans. Both houses ended "empty-seat voting," though senators can still vote in absentia on "non-controversial" bills. The Assembly increased accountability for its committees. And the Senate stripped its leader of the power to block any bill.

But by and large, the center said, legislators ignored the vast majority of its recommendations. The Legislature remains today nearly as impaired as it was in 2004.

Who's to blame for this sorry mess?

You. That's right, you.

Only you can elect legislators who are committed to real reforms, not token gestures. Only you can hold legislators accountable if they fail to open and democratize state government. Only you can demand substantive changes that truly benefit New York's citizens, not New York's politicians.

If a legislator ignores this obligation or makes lame excuses for inaction, then send someone else to Albany to get the job done.

Too many lawmakers blame their leaders - Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno - when proposals for reform are shelved or die in committee, if they even get that far. But legislators elect their leaders, and you elect the legislators.

This Election Day, choose candidates who have the courage to stand up to the bosses. Choose candidates who pledge to work for - not give lip service to - a more transparent, more responsive, more honest government.