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The New York State Politburo

Majority rule in the New York State Legislature means walking in lock step with the party leadership.

An analysis recently released by the New York Public Interest Research Group provides all the depressing, though not surprising, detail.

Assembly Democrats voted with Speaker Sheldon Silver 97.4 percent of the time.

Senate Democrats were a bigger flock of sheep, voting with Temporary President Malcolm Smith 99.7 percent of the time.

Not that the Republicans were much better, voting the same way as Smith 96.5 percent of the time, which leaves me to wonder aloud:

What exactly is the difference between Senate Democrats and Republicans, once you get past their competition to be the majority party and enjoy the perks that come with it?

Because whatever it is, it's not showing up in their voting records.

Press releases, yes, but not on the legislative floor.

Also telling is the fact that 55 percent of Assembly bills and 76 percent of Senate bills passed unanimously this session.

The average vote in the Assembly was 132 "yes," nine "no" and eight members absent or abstaining.

The typical vote in the Senate was 58-2-2.

Also noteworthy: The amount of legislation passed this session dropped, especially in the Senate, which passed one-half to one-third the number of bills it did last year, depending on how you do the math.

Blame it on the coup, I guess.

I delved into the numbers to assess the track record of our Western New York delegation.

The good news, relatively speaking, is that our 13 Assembly members were a little more independent from Silver than legislators from around the state.

Our seven Democrats voted with Silver 91 percent of the time (vs. 97 percent for the entire Assembly), while our six Republicans sided with the speaker 67 percent of the time.

Sam Hoyt sided with Silver 98 percent of the time, followed by Crystal Peoples at 97 percent. Bill Parment was the Democrat most frequent to dissent, voting with Silver 83 percent of the time.

The NYPRIG report did not provide similar details on the voting pattern of individual senators, but did note that Bill Stachowksi was one of eight who voted with Smith 100 percent of the time.

Let's see, Smith screws him out of the Finance Committee chairmanship and Stachs sticks with him anyway. I know Stachowski prides himself as a team players, but geez.

The report noted that Republican senators were reluctant to break with their leadership, voting the same as Minority Leader Dean Skelos 94 to 98 percent of the time.

Michael Razenhofer differed with Skelos more often than anyone else in the GOP conference. But agreeing with the boss more than nine out of 10 times doesn't exactly make you a renegade.

I also took at look at the number of bills introduced and passed, one of the few measures of productivity available to the public. On balance, our local delegation fares OK, but then again, it's all relative.

On average, Assembly Democrats introduced 66 bills this past session. Our local Dems introduced an average of 61 bills. Assembly Democrats as a whole passed an average of the 10 of the bills they introduced; our guys got nine approved.

Schimminger and Hoyt got more bills passed than their colleagues locally, with 19 and 14 respectively. That's to be expected, given the reality that in the Assembly, seniority = power.

As for Assembly Republicans, they introduced an average of 41 bills, vs. 30 for the WNY delegation. Bills passed averaged three per lawmaker, both statewide and among our delegation.

One thing struck me in looking at the track record of local Republican Assemblymen.

Jim Hayes of Amherst did not get a single bill passed the whole session. Not one. Nada. Zippo.

Hello! Hello! Is anyone in there? Can I introduce you to the concept of pay for performance?

On the Senate side, Democrats statewide introduced an average of 114 bills this session, while our two Dems introduced an average of 140. The average Senator statewide got 13 bills passed, while our guys averaged 18.

The numbers for the Senate Republicans: 80 bills introduced statewide, while our four were 91. Bills passed per senator statewide were six; ours were seven.

So, statistically speaking, our delegation fared better than average. But keep in mind that none held a leadership position, so they didn't have a whole lot of influence. Not like the guys from NYC.

The thing that jumped out at me is how the productivity of the local Republicans dropped off this session after the GOP lost control of the Senate, only to regain it and then lose it again.

George Maziarz got 51 bills passed a year ago; this session, only 5.


Dale Volker dropped from 94 to nine.

Double ouch.

I massaged the spreadsheet NYPRIG produced to provide details on the voting patterns of our delegation, as well as the Legislature as a whole, which are noted in the tabs. Take a look here.

And remember, they're all up for re-election next year.


State government
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