Saying They Want More Reforms, Senate Republican Reject Chairmanships

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Thanks, but no thanks.

In a statement today, Senate Minority Leader Dean Skelos, R-Nassau County, said that any committee chairmanships offered to Republican senators need to be coupled with further reforms of the chamber.

He said other reforms need to be considered, such as reducing the number of standing committees and the number of committees members can serve — ideas being considered by a bi-partisan Senate panel.

Senate Democratic Leader John Sampson, D-Brooklyn, reached out to three Republican senators — Joseph Robach of Monroe County, Thomas Morahan of Rockland County and George Maziarz of Niagara County — to gauge their interest in committee chairmanships.

While they initially expressed interest in the posts, Skelos suggested it isn’t going to happen.

Robach confirmed that he won’t take a committe chairmanship, rumored for him as chairman of the Senate Cities Committee. Robach said he wants to focus on the state’s budget problems and high taxes.

“In prioritizing that, I’m simply turning down the opportunity to chair a committee, though quite simply I will continue to work with everybody,” he said. “If they are doing something that’s in the best interest of my district, I’ll be in full support. If they’re not, I’m going to speak out against it.”

Skelos said: “Senator Sampson’s proposal to appoint new chairs should be considered along with these other recommendations, by the bipartisan committee, before any action is taken. Our conference strongly believes that additional reforms must be made in a comprehensive way and not in a piecemeal fashion. ”

Here’s Skelos’ full statement:

On Monday morning I met with Senator John Sampson to discuss committee changes he is contemplating. We discussed how to make our committees and the way we operate more bipartisan, and I agree that should be our goal.

The reforms that our conference proposed and fought for earlier this year will no doubt improve our ability to work on behalf of the people of this state. We believe, however, that more needs to be done.

In January, a new Temporary Committee on Rules Reform, co-chaired by Senators John Bonacic and David Valesky, was formed. The committee held public forums and hearings across the state and, though the Majority Report recommended only minor changes at the time, Senate Republicans made it clear that much more needed to be done.

Senator Bonacic, and the other Republican members of the Committee, Senators George Winner and Joe Griffo, proposed additional recommendations to make the committee system more bipartisan, more transparent and more effective. These reforms were not embraced by the Majority but we were successful in adopting many of them following the leadership dispute in June.

The Bonacic-Valesky committee has been reviewing other reforms, including reducing the number of standing committees and limiting the number of committees members can serve on. In addition, Senator Bonacic and other Minority members have put forward other recommendations that were not adopted in June.

Senator Sampson’s proposal to appoint new chairs should be considered along with these other recommendations, by the bipartisan committee, before any action is taken. Our conference strongly believes that additional reforms must be made in a comprehensive way and not in a piecemeal fashion.

We fought hard for the reforms that were enacted in July. We will continue to push for internal reforms, as well as other governmental reforms to make this Legislature and our government more responsive to the people’s needs. We need stronger ethics rules, a spending cap, and measures such as initiative and referendum to restore public confidence in government and give people an even greater voice.

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