Ponder This: FLX needs NY to function as democracy

Let’s talk about the concept of Three Men in a Room. It’s a practice used in Albany’s legislature since 1943 after Governor Thomas Dewey took office. These three men include the Governor, the Speaker of the House and the Senate Majority Leader. A once popular meme of this elite group, held with pride and humor were known as the Three Amigos. All three donned in sombreros is now used more as a rock loaded slingshot with contempt by the disgruntled followers who think of this is the embodiment of Albany corruption. Why are we allowing these three men in a room to wield such power? U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a recent Politico New York article written by Colby Hamilton that, “There are 213 men and women in the state legislature, and yet it is common knowledge that only three men wield all the power.” A perfect analogy he gave, “When did 20 million New Yorkers agree to be ruled like triumvirate in Roman times?” Have we really moved that far back in history?Three years ago while making numerous calls to the assembly members of the Corrections Committee I happened upon an aide who told me a memo had gone out that read, in big bold print, “DO NOT BRING THIS BILL TO THE FLOOR FOR A VOTE.” The memo was in reference to Brittany’s Law, which I had been fighting on behalf of for several years alongside Senator Michael Nozzolio and Assemblyman Brian Kolb. The following year I was invited to Albany to speak at a press conference. Without naming anyone I asked “What man, what one person, has the power to dictate which bills will be brought to the floor for a vote?” It was only a matter of days before I came across an article where then Senate Speaker Sheldon Silver stated, “Yes I have the power to dictate which bills will go to the floor for a vote.” He actually used the word dictate. Silver apparently watched the press conference that still lives on YouTube to this day. This would be the only answer received to the question posed in my address. Ironically though, it felt much more like a declaration of authority — rather than a nod to democracy.Silver has recently been found guilty and sentenced on corruption charges. Current Speaker of the House Carl Heastie has options before him. He can embrace democracy and give government in New York State the opportunity to function like it was designed, or the same habits can become more obvious. Near the end of this legislative session I spoke with Heastie’s office several times about this matter — which they promised that things had changed. Now we must ask ourselves: Why as taxpayers are we paying the salaries of 213 when only a handful of individuals have real power determining what becomes law in New York?Most people take time to learn about the man or woman who is running to represent their district. What do they stand for? What issues are important to them? Is this someone I will be able to call on if something is wrong in my district? The answers to these questions are the basis for the campaign candidates run. We don’t need more representatives who are handcuffed to party allegiance and a clearly broken system. More than 10,000 bills are introduced or reintroduced each year. We need representatives who are going to push for meaningful legislation, and push to keep the governing process functional, fair, and transparent.This November everyone has a choice to help ensure that the democratic process plays out the entire year — not just on Election Day. Most-importantly, New York State needs a functional, complete democracy.Dale Cook Driscoll’s ‘Ponder This’ is a bi-weekly column featured exclusively on FingerLakes1.com. Her feature will look at political and social issues around the Finger Lakes. She can be contacted via email at [email protected] and found on Twitter here.

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