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Monday, January 05, 2009

Senate Leadership Race Down to the Wire

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.

- 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.
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.

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.


Anonymous said...

The piece by Paul Post from last Friday suggests that Smith is on board with VLT's at Belmont? Interesting how he is refered to as "Senate majority leader", not quite yet!

Anonymous said...

The ethics committee not meeting says it all.

Bruno had no use for ethics.

Anonymous said...

But as they used to say about Mussolini, at least the trains ran on time. I can't imagine the current nonsense happening with Joe Bruno at the helm of the Senate.

Say what ya will about ol' Joe, he knew how to get it done. Joe's ethics were certainly no worse than the rest of the scoundrels that inhabit Albany and probably as good if not better than most.

Haven't heard much about Joe's crown jewel lately, i.e., the AMD plant just south of Saratoga. Is it still on? We could use Joe as a business consultant over here in Vermont, show these tree huggers how to bring in business instead of driving it away. /S/greenmtnpunter

Steve Zorn said...

Ah, Alan, your continued faith in the system, albeit from a most cynical perspective, never fails to inspire me. At least you pay attention to the State Senate. So few do; a check of my own Senator -- Liz Krueger -- shows that she doesn't seem to have even updated her web page for about six months. Surely she had time to do that while not attending committee meetings.

Seriously, between the Senate and the Governor now having no interest in racing, and Shelley Silver having an interest only in what's good for Shelley Silver, I think our game is in for a very rough two years in Albany. As a start, I'd bet there's a major effort to take more money for the state from the race track VLTs, which means less money for purses and more trainers and owners being forced out.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure the stae of NY will be trying to get at VLT percentages. If Belmont comes on line, the Aqueduct operator gets a 5.5% raise in its keep. If Belmont is not approved for VLT's, my sources tell me that unless the agreement with DelNorth is changed to either dismiss or reduce the $370 million upfront payment or modify the original "splits" to be more favorable to the operator, that DelNorth will probaly walk from the deal. Maybe the state can go after established and profitable VLT operations, but surely not the proposed facilities that have yet to be built.