The New York State Senate Racing, Gaming, and Wagering Committee is one of four Senate committees which did not even bother meeting in 2006; this according to a new report about the state legislature issued by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law School. The report is entitled, appropriately enough, "Still Broken," and the NY Daily News has details in an editorial.
- Most Senate committees meet fewer than two times per year. The ethics, cities, racing and wagering, and tourism panels never convened at all in 2006 - even as their chairs pulled down thousands of dollars in extra pay for their supposed efforts.Nice to know that in 2006, as the franchise battle was raging and NYRA was plunging towards bankruptcy, the Senate committee charged with making racing law (and chaired by Republican Senator William Larkin), had nothing at all to talk about.
- When Senate committees do meet, members skip out and cast no-show ballots.
- Whether committees meet or not makes little difference because two people - the Assembly speaker and the Senate majority leader - keep iron-fisted control over every decision. That's why most bills, once taken up by committee, pass unanimously. Of 8,457 votes cast in Assembly committees in 2006, only 76 were "no" votes.
- Every single bill the leadership brings to the floor automatically passes - in most cases, unanimously. Of 191 major pieces of legislation approved in 2006, only 36 in the Senate and 44 in the Assembly received any "no" votes at all.
The matters listed above are just a portion of the scathing report - Irene Jay Liu has more on the Capitol Confidential blog, and, if you have the stomach for it (I don't), the entire report is in PDF form here. I listed these particular items because the matter of committee Chairs being able to route bills to the full Senate for a floor vote, regardless of the party affiliation of the sponsor, looked to me like the only item in the scuttled agreement between prospective Majority Leader Malcolm Smith and the so-called Gang of Three - Senators Moe (don't call me Ho-Moe), Larry, and Sleazy - that weren't completely self-serving, and which actually could lead to the kind of reform that these three clowns only talk about. (Though I imagine there was an ulterior motive there as well.)
In any event, the race is on between Smith and Senator Skelos to woo the three prior to what should prove to be quite the dramatic Senate leadership vote on Wednesday, the daty on which Governor Paterson will deliver his State of the State address. I guess only in New York could a Senate with a 32-29 Democratic advantage (pending the outcome of the disputed race in Queens) be ruled by a Republican...and I can't imagine the kind of dysfunction that could result from a Republican Majority Leader leading a majority of (supposed) Democrats. The outcome has obvious implications for our purposes, since, amongst many other reasons, Skelos is a staunch supporter of slots at Belmont, while Senator Smith's position is unclear at this time.