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Writer Phil Reisman sounds off on the number of bills introduced in New York State and looks at what happens to them down the line.
Our elected boobs in Albany crank out legislative “sausage” at a stupefying rate, and history shows that it’s all but impossible to stop them.
New York’s officeholders have always been law-happy. It is an obsessive-compulsive disease surpassed by no other state — not even New Jersey!
The phenomenon has been carefully studied for decades. For instance, according to a 2021 research report by a consulting outfit called FiscalNote, 16,818 bills were introduced in the New York Assembly and Senate in 2021 — which was more than 19 other states combined. But here is the kicker: Only a few of those bills got passed into law.
It was not an anomaly. In a typical year, less than 10% of bills make it out of committee. The rest end up in the shredder, or they are brought back to life and perennially reintroduced by undeterred legislators — a clear sign of insanity. For instance, in 2011, Carl Kruger, a Democratic senator from Brooklyn, reportedly sponsored 340 pieces of legislation, only five of which were new. (Fun fact: Kruger was later convicted of bribery and sentenced to seven years in prison.)
Way back in the 1980s, a Bronx senator by the name of Abe Bernstein had an Ahab-like quest to outlaw professional wrestling in New York because it incited children to violence and was fake, which was stating the obvious. He set up a Senate Task Force on the subject and held a raucous hearing in Manhattan that was attended by actual wrestlers in full regalia — among them Sheik Ali Abulia, Morgus the Maniac, and the Haiti Kid. Captain Lou Albano, a Hall of Fame wrestler who hailed from Mount Vernon, told The New York Times he declined to attend because “some of these politicians have brains the size of dehydrated peas.”
A lot of politicians are cynical too.
Depending on one’s political persuasion, the greatest villain in the Empire State is either Donald Trump or Andrew Cuomo — and both are at the center of two attention-getting bills that have been knocking around for a while without success. Stripping their names, respectively, from an undeveloped state park and the former Tappan Zee Bridge may happen someday, but for now, the effort smacks of needless pandering to angry constituents who must have bigger things to worry about.
New York’s officeholders have always been law-happy.
Anger is also at the root of a repeat bill that finally slipped through this year — a controversial measure to study reparations for slavery, fueled no doubt by a similar effort in California where a special state commission concluded that every African American should receive a payment of $1.2 million. Regarding reparations, Bill Maher said, “This is madness, is it not?”
Every year, it seems, some obscure legislator (there are many) proposes a plan to secede from the state. This year, Assemblyman Keith Brown, a Republican, proposed making Long Island the 51st state to escape the financial grip of New York City. Failing that, he said, the island should merge with Rhode Island or Connecticut. Assemblyman Phil Ramos, a Democrat, said the idea was “insane.”
There was a magical moment in time when all the madness and insanity might stop. It seemed critical mass had been achieved in 2006, when a certain legislator proposed that the official state insect be changed from the nine-spotted ladybug to the pink ladybug because, she was informed, the nine-spotted ladybug was extinct. She went to all the time, trouble, and taxpayer expense of drawing up a bill to correct the problem. Like most bills, it didn’t pass.
And then it turned out the nine-spotted ladybug was not even extinct; it was just rare.
Not long after the bug fiasco, The Brennan Center for Justice came out with a 44-page report that recommended a slew of reforms for New York that included limiting the number of proposed bills to 20 per assemblymember and 30 per senator. That is like cutting off a crack addict.
Nevertheless, Assemblywoman Sandra Galef (D-Ossining) seized on the findings. She said the process of drawing up frivolous bills that were doomed to failure was costing the state millions of dollars a year. Galef, who retired last year, came up with legislation to, yes, stop the madness.
Of course, like so many bills that came before it, the good-government bill went nowhere.
Ironically, the “dumb law” crusade came back to bite Galef when she, after suffering through the loud volume at a now-defunct multiplex in Hawthorne, proposed a state regulation to reduce the decibel level of commercials and previews at movie theaters.
“Stupid idea,” asserted one surly letter writer. “Bring cotton balls next time.”