Results Matter But So Does The Process

Democracy should be about discussion and debate where differing viewpoints are allowed to be heard. Certainly at some point a vote needs to occur and the majority will prevail.

The New York State Constitution and the New York State Legislature have a required process for addressing legislation. Whether one supports the Marriage Equality Act passed in New York last year or the recently passed gun control legislation, the process used to pass both items was not democracy at its best.

When the Marriage Equality Act allowing same sex marriage was passed last year the following steps were taken:

– Procedures that require that a bill must be sent to appropriate committees prior to being placed before the full Senate for a vote were not followed.

- No debate was allowed. No questions. No explaining of positions. Instead, four Senators were selected by the leadership to each give a 2-minute speech on his position. All four supported the bill. The normal Senate rules call for any Senator to be able to give a 2-minute speech during the debate period. Sen. Diaz (D-South Bronx) stood up and demanded that the normal rules be followed, but he was ignored.

- The New York Constitution mandates a three-day review period before the Legislature votes on a bill. This requirement can be eliminated if the Governor declares an emergency situation exists. This emergency power is frequently utilized and abused in the opinion of good government organizations.

Similar actions were taken to pass gun control legislation. Andrew Rosenthal of the New York Times wrote:

“Governor Andrew Cuomo is trying to lead the nation in gun control, but he’s picked a peculiar way of doing it. Mr. Cuomo negotiated in secret with a few other powerful politicians on a dog’s breakfast of legislation that got no public discussion at all and was passed by state senators who had not even read it—because they were not given a chance to do so.”

The legislative items mentioned above are important and significant but the process used to get there is troubling to me. Do you think process matters or only the result achieved matter?

www.reinventinggov.org

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