Shocker: State Senate's Done Least Work Ever This Year

Passed less than half as many bills as last year.

Here's one more piece of the aftermath from this summer's coup in the New York Senate and the gridlock that followed: Just 640 bills were passed in the chamber, less than half the average for the past 14 years.

That total from the Democrat-led Senate compares with 1,794 passed in 2008, when Republicans still controlled the chamber.

And since the Senate and Assembly each have to pass the same bill for it to become law, the Senate's low output meant 554 bills were passed by the full Legislature, down from 811 in 2008, according to an analysis released Friday by the New York Public Interest Research Group. For the 69 days of regular session, that meant the Senate passed an average of nine bills a day, while the Assembly passed 18.

Lawmakers weren't paid any less for the low output; they still collected a base pay of $79,500, plus thousands more for attending session days in Albany, and for leadership posts. The difference in productivity is attributed to a January power struggle, and to a coup that a mostly Republican coalition mobilized in June, halting Senate action for more than a month.

In January -- after Democrats won a 32-30 majority in the November elections — the Senate failed to pass a single bill. Democrats argued at the time they would ultimately pass more than the former Republican majority.

"Because of the leadership crisis (in June), we lost the most productive time of the legislative session where the number of bills that were passed would arguably have surpassed legislative activity in previous years," Democratic spokesman Austin Shafran said. He noted that under Republican control, the Senate passed more than 1,000 bills in June in 2008 and in 2007.

"The quality of the bills that we passed and their benefit to the people of New York is the only standard by which the legislature should be judged," he said.

Despite all the bickering and turmoil, the Senate passed more than 76 percent of its bills unanimously. The data from NYPIRG only included bills passed between Jan. 1 and July 31. Another six bills passed in August's special session, and the Senate is expected to return in September.

In January, Democrats took control for the first time in 43 years. That was also the first time in at least 14 years that no bills were passed in the first month of the six-month session.

At the time, even some Republicans argued that Democrats deserved a chance to catch up as they took over. But the transition was slowed by three dissident senators who said they might side with Republicans if they didn't get lucrative leadership posts and policy considerations.

They finally struck a deal, but two of those senators — Pedro Espada of the Bronx and Hiram Monserrate of Queens — would later be instrumental in a coup that would turn the chamber on its head and stall any bill passages for more than a month.

Democratic Senators in Albany have a history of infighting, compared with the apparent solidarity of Republicans.

"There's far more that unites our conference than divides it," Shafran said. "The month of June is over."

Sen. Antoine Thompson, a Buffalo Democrat, said as Democrats move forward, they will need to get more work done earlier in the year.

"I think we could have moved more bills earlier and not had this process of letting bills wait until June," he said. "I think that is crying for reform."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
Contact Us