Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Brennan Center Re-Checks Sheldon Silver

Earlier this week the Brennan Center put out a report showing how broken our state's government is. Speaker Sheldon Silver, being one of the key players in keeping things the way they are, responded to their findings. Unfortunately, the truth is too much for Shelly's attempt at spinning and the Brennan Center comes right back to put him in his place.

From ReformNY:

In response to yesterday’s release of the Brennan Center’s report Still Broken: New York State Legislative Reform 2008 Update, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver issued a statement suggesting that our report misrepresents the legislative process in the Assembly. We thought we’d set the record straight. Our responses to excerpts from Silver’s statement (in italics) are below.
In analyzing the work of the legislature, the Brennan Center report completely omits the state budget, as well as countless bills that pass either house every year.
This is incorrect. The analysis that forms the basis of the report included all of the budget bills listed on the New York Legislative Session Information page for 2006 and 2007 except the Legislature and Judiciary Budget Bill and the State Debt Budget Bill in each year. The statistics regarding substantive floor debate, meaningful dissent, and committee deliberation regarding these bills generally conform to the poor performance of both houses in considering the rest of the major legislation analyzed in this report.

The fact of the matter is that while the budget process in New York has become somewhat more transparent in the last few years, it is still far too opaque. Budget deals are still cut behind closed doors – once the budget bills are drafted, most details of budget reductions, tax increases, and member items are briefed and debated outside of public view.
The response to the response goes on, picking apart all of what Silver has to say for himself and defusing his nonsense. The modus operandi for people like Silver for the longest time has been to pretend things are transparent while working extremely hard to make important documents exceedingly difficult to decipher.

Good government groups try hard to unwind the mess, but because there is so much to entangle, by the time we can see what is going on the damage has already been done. It is important though that things do get untangled and places like the Brennan Center document the opacity of our state government so that people are more aware of the problems created in Albany. Hopefully because of it, the public gets motivated to actually do something about it.