Three Republican Assembly members—Jim Tedisco of Schenectady, Steve McLaughlin of Melrose, Rensselaer County, and Tony Jordan of Jackson, Washington County, said they are drafting government-transparency legislation that would prevent legislative proceedings from taking place after midnight.
The announcement comes after Senate and Assembly sessions this week that ran well passed midnight. The Assembly went all night, completing its work around 7 a.m. yesterday. The lawmakers were working on what’s known as the “Big Ugly,” a conglomeration of bills that were all part of a deal made with Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The legislation would create new district lines for Senate and Assembly districts, establish a new, less generous pension tier, expand the state’s DNA and start the process for authorizing up to seven non-Indian casinos in the state.
“Voters and taxpayers should sleep comfortably with sweet dreams in the dead of the night and not have to worry about having nightmares about the actions of their legislators and governor,” said Tedisco, former Assembly Minority Leader and current Assistant Minority Whip (pictured here). “Good legislation should be voted on at 3 p.m. when most New Yorkers are awake, not 3 a.m. when the only other thing on television are infomercials and Twilight Zone marathons.”
The “New York Government Transparency Act” would put a deadline of midnight for all state legislative sessions, the lawmakers said. There wouldn’t be an exception for “messages of necessity”—which the governor issues to override the requirement for bills to “age” before they can be voted on—unless there were an “extreme state of emergency.” Any legislation adopted between midnight and 8 a.m. would be invalid.
“Voting on pieces of legislation in the middle of the night, with barely any time to read what’s been thrown on our desk, all while lawmakers are sleep deprived, is not the openness and transparency Governor Cuomo promised us,” McLaughlin said in a statement. “For the sake of the people, lawmakers should be allowed time to thoroughly read, thoughtfully consider and fully debate important legislation on the floor, in the light of day.”
Jordan said it’s ironic that the legislation was passed during Sunshine Week, a national effort to promote government access and transparency.