Today was an unusually busy Monday for the League. The Mandate Relief Design Team met, we participated in a Press Conference on ethics, and also checked in on the Assembly Elections Committee while it held a spontaneous meeting to fast track an elections bill dealing with voting machines and villages.
The conversation around the table at the Design Team meeting today focused on unfunded mandates, their proliferation and their impact on local governments. The difficulty is when mandates come down initially funded, then the money runs out and mandate never does. We also talked about the need for fiscal notes to be attached to any legislation dealing with local governments and education. The League has for several years, under our budget position, advocated for fiscal notes on legislation so that the public is aware of the fiscal impact of legislation. Also discussed at this meeting was a need for standardization of procedures by local governments and educational entities.
Meanwhile at a press conference at the capitol the good government groups called for immediate action on delayed ethics reform. Citizens Union today released its second report in two years on turnover in the New York State Legislature, revealing an alarming trend of legislators leaving office due to ethical transgressions. During the past six years from 2005-2010, 13 legislators left office because of criminal charges or ethical misconduct – more than triple the 4 legislators who left during the previous six-year period from 1999-2004.
On the election law front, Bill Number A.3093B, effective immediately would allow villages to use lever machines for their elections in March. The League along with our good government colleagues opposed this legislation with a joint memo because it does not allow for disabled voters to vote independently and privately and it also flies in the face of standardization and uniformity in the use of voting technologies in all elections at all levels, one of the premises of HAVA. The “B” version allows for a sunset of December 2012, after which time, all elections will be carried out with electronic machines.
All of this was before the session began late in the afternoon. More to come and Happy Valentine’s Day.