Process Versus Policy
From the morning memo, which you can subscribe to on the right side of the blog:
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s gun control proposal — with a new, updated ban on assault rifles at its centerpiece — is now law.
The measure, which was the subject of intense behind-the-scenes negotiations that started before Christmas, is the first of its kind to pass in any state or on the federal level for that matter in the wake of the Connecticut school shooting that killed 26 people.
Cuomo quickly signed the bill into law after the Assembly passed the measure on Tuesday, 104-43.
But critics — Second Amendment advocates and some Republican state lawmakers — blasted the NY SAFE Act of 2013 before the governor’s pen even touched paper.
The measure, they say, is far too broad and punishes legal gun owners.
But their main criticism, one raised repeatedly by the Assembly GOP yesterday, was a question of process.
As mentioned in yesterday’s morning memo, Cuomo has once again employed the use of a message of necessity to waive the three-day aging period for bills.
The governor’s power of the message is a key one to enact emergency provisions that need to pass immediately.
But Cuomo has used the message of necessity power to speed bills through the legislative process, be it a new, less generous pension tier or same-sex marriage.
The Tier Six pension bill, a measure that would effect all future public employees after it was passed, was literally printed in the middle of the night and put on lawmakers’ desk in the early hours of the morning. I recall sitting in our Capitol bureau at 3 a.m. trying to decipher the language. No matter; the bill passed anyway a few hours later.
The governor says he’s reluctant to issue messages of necessity and refused to do so at the end of the legislative session in 2012. But he is willing to send them to the Legislature if he needs to strike while the iron is hot and a deal on a controversial piece of legislation has been achieved.
Cuomo’s most recent message says the need for the gun control law is immediate because of the spate of mass shootings.
“Some weapons are so dangerous, and some ammunition devices so lethal, that New York State must act without delay to prohibit their continue sale and possession in the state in order to protect its children, first responders and citizens as soon as possible,” the document read.
Cuomo added an additional rationale on Monday night: avoiding runs on gun stores, some of which did occur on Tuesday as the Assembly debated the bill.
The gun control law, meanwhile, is 78 pages long and was done printing just before it was put on the state Senate’s desk Monday night. It’s filled with technical provisions for new sentencing guidelines and provisions for the mentally ill that touch on dozens of facets of everyday life for New Yorkers.
The state’s good-government groups, criticized the latest message of necessity, saying that while they understood the desire to move swiftly, lawmakers had little time to read the bill.
“An open process would have allowed for a full public discussion of the many new elements contained within the bill,” said the statement from Common Cause, Citizens Union, the League of Women Voters and NYPIRG. “Yet the bill was only made available to the public yesterday when it was introduced and voted on by the Senate. We understand that legislators also had little, if any, time to review the bill’s many complex provisions before being asked to vote on it, clearly not a desirable situation.”
For Cuomo’s part, who has said state government isn’t supposed to be a debating society, supporters at a bill signing ceremony that getting the law done now, only two days into the legislative session isn’t about being first, it’s about being best.
“I’m proud to be a New Yorker today,” Cuomo said. “I am proud to be part of this government not just be because New York has the first bill, but because New York has the best bill.”
Cuomo would also likely argue that he’s already spelled out well in advance what he wanted to do on gun control: tighten loopholes, increase sentencing and reduce gun violence. The details in a 78 page bill, however, matter. Some chapter amendments are needed for the new law, including one that would carve out provisions for former law enforcement officers.
The argument, though, for acting quickly on these measures is that nothing might get done if there’s a drawn-out debate over the finer points.
After years of dysfunction and delay in Albany, Cuomo has marshaled support for a host of controversial measures that never seemed to stand a chance of passing a Legislature known more for sending lawmakers to jail for corruption than losing re-election.
The governor’s team doesn’t want to see any of their work scuttled because of a stray detail being seized on by a potentially vocal opposition.
The age-old question is this: Do New Yorkers care about Albany process or do they care about the final product?
Cuomo, as usual, is betting on the product.
|Print article||This entry was posted by Nick Reisman on January 16, 2013 at 11:11 am, and is filed under Andrew Cuomo. Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.|