A coalition of business and good-government groups held news conferences in Buffalo and across the state Monday demanding that the State Legislature enact internal reforms or face coordinated efforts aimed against incumbents in the 2006 elections.
The Buffalo session was hosted by the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, where Kevin C. Schuler, its vice president for government affairs, said a series of recommendations issued by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School should serve as the basis for reforms. The Manhattan think tank issued a report earlier this year labeling New York State government as the nation's most dysfunctional.
"The real reason behind this is that Western New York needs help from Albany right now," Schuler said. "The only way we're going to be able to turn some of this around is to open up a process in Albany that's not delivering. Because we are not getting that policy relief that we so badly need, we need to try this."
The coalition, made up of more than 50 organizations ranging from the Amherst Chamber of Commerce to the League of Women Voters, is asking legislators to consider several internal reforms when they reconvene in January. Among them are:
Requiring public hearings on certain legislation and requiring committee reports on all bills sent to the floor.
Ending proxy voting in Senate committees and requiring attendance at all committee meetings.
Placing transcripts of all committee meetings and hearings on Web sites.
Preventing reductions in office staff and supplies for members.
Schuler said the recommendations may seem mired in technicalities, but he and others emphasized the importance of opening and streamlining a process now dominated by "three men in a room" -- the governor, the Assembly speaker and the Senate majority leader.