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OPINION: Extraordinary Session Failure Highlights Albany’s Dysfunction

By Will Barclay

Date:

Gov. Kathy Hochul [recently] convened an “extraordinary session” of the New York Legislature in a knee-jerk overreaction to a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that determined New York’s gun-licensing laws to be unconstitutional. And in typical Albany fashion, a new level of dysfunction was reached. The public, the legislature and anyone not sitting at the governor’s negotiating table were left completely in the dark on the proposals being discussed. 

In some instances, it is necessary to convene an extraordinary session of the legislature outside of the normal legislative calendar. However, such activity must not be done in secret, with nearly no information about the substance of the bills being discussed made public. Certainly, the legislature should not be called back when there are no agreements in place, no legislation introduced.

Sadly, that’s exactly what happened [in this session]. The timeline [was] astonishing to those involved and insulting to the goals of an open, transparent government.

Lawmakers were told [June 24] they would be expected back in Albany for an extraordinary session on [June 30.]. Imagine their surprise when they came to work ready to debate and vote on legislation only to find there was no legislation submitted for consideration. Not only was there no specific bill text to study, but there was also not even an agreed-upon plan in place regarding the scope of the proposed legislation. Then to make matters even more chaotic, at 2 a.m. [the following] morning, in the dark of night while New Yorkers slept, Gov. Hochul announced she would introduce a measure to include the right to have an abortion in the state Constitution.

 From start to finish, the entire endeavor orchestrated by New York Democrats was wrong on every level — in process and in policy.

This legislative circus, unfortunately, likely does not surprise anyone who has been paying attention to New York’s government in recent months or years. The inability of the governor and majority conferences’ one-party rule to effectively facilitate quality, meaningful legislation has been glaringly obvious. Despite promising otherwise, Gov. Hochul has picked up right where her predecessor left off and continued to use back-door dealings and shadow lawmaking as her preferred method of governing. There isn’t even an attempt to be transparent.

For my entire legislative career, and especially as leader of the Assembly Minority Conference, I have advocated for a more open and transparent process. Late-night voting, rushed bills, and votes taken after the all-encompassing “message of necessity” has been invoked have moved from emergency measures to commonplace procedure. No one is well-served by this type of governance. It is long past time we eliminate lawmaking as an act of political convenience and restore it to its rightful role truly improving the quality of life of New York’s residents. What we saw again [in the extraordinary session] was not helpful and should never have happened.        


William (Will) A. Barclay, 53, Republican, is the New York Assembly minority leader and represents the 120th New York Assembly District, which encompasses most of Oswego County, including the cities of Oswego and Fulton, as well as the town of Lysander in Onondaga County and town of Ellisburg in Jefferson County.