June 19 was a truly remarkable day in the New York State Senate, with your elected representatives toiling tirelessly on your behalf. According to the Senate’s twitter feed, a total of 117 bills were voted on that day by our highly vaunted deliberative body. The results:
108 out of the 117 bills passed by a vote of 62-0.
One bill passed 60-0.
One bill passed 60-1.
Four bills passed 61-1.
Lastly, three bills passed by what appear to be close to party lines, by the 40s against the 20s. Two of those had something to do with alcohol sales. Apparently, there was a contentious debate over the taxation of beer tasting. In the process, the very definition of a beer tasting wound up being amended.
Amazing, isn’t it? In a chamber where the party split is 40 Democrats to 22 Republicans, I must say this is the most remarkable display of bipartisanship not seen since the Supreme Soviet. Why, it’s almost as if Tom Suozzi’s “Problem Sellout Caucus” was in charge of everything.
So why is this day remarkable? Simple: Because it’s just like every other day. In every session, a stream of bills are put up for a vote, there’s no deliberation, and your senators simply rubber stamp them. And it opens up a truth most state policy experts have known for decades: we have absolutely no need for a bicameral legislature. A single chamber will function far better than two and save untold billions in expense.
Adding to the pretense of a representative body is the duplication of work: Each chamber has its own committee on issues like housing, taxation, criminal justice, energy, education, agriculture, banking and so on. So every time a piece of legislation is submitted, the committees of both houses get busy, and of course, if you want the bill to see the light of day, a few favors must be exchanged, few of them publicly known. By the time a bill hits the floor, everyone has their orders, but not before a few “understandings” are in place. This is a patently ludicrous form of government, guaranteed to produce corruption and manufactured inefficiency.
In addition, the Legislature wastes decades of man hours on the most trivial rubbish. Are we really still at the stage where we have to pass legislation honoring some retiring librarian from Herkimer County with her own day of honor? Mass highway renaming? And who could forget Sen. Jack Martins’ courageous bill to mandate that every single poppy flower sold in New York State in honor of the fallen of World War I be exempt from sales taxes? (Martins winding up at Suozzi’s old law firm is pure Nassau.) Dozens of bills are for picayune-enabling legislation for some sparsely populated village upstate to allow them to buy a small parcel of land or make a minor modification to a local fire department’s pay structure, things that could easily be handled at a local level. But here, all of this gets funneled through the State’s senior chamber.
Does important stuff get done? Of course. But there’s no need for this many people to do them. Over the years, just about every endeavor that touches our lives has been made more efficient. But this charade of a “deliberative body” has its uses as a payroll padder and pension generator.
I’ve heard that there have been some rumblings from Democratic Party leaders (sic) in this county that the party is moving too “far left” and may risk losing some seats. This is because these same leaders are under the impression that a political party is little more than an employment agency for donors and friends, not an organization formed to represent voters who want to put forward policies based on sincerely held values and better outcomes for us all. That’s why you have these two relics in the Legislature, and it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that these vast armies of embedded grifters will never give up their jobs for the sake of the welfare of their beloved state. In the meantime, pay up, and let them pretend.