The state that is home to the ‘city that never sleeps’ has an interesting new piece of legislation submitted for consideration. A few days ago, New York Senate Bill #S03412 - which seeks to prohibit lawmakers’ taking votes on legislation after 9pm and before 9am – was put forth and is now pending senate investigations and action by the government operations committee. Many of us complain that legislators don’t work very hard, so is there really a need for a bill that seeks to curtail the hours during which legislators can vote on issues of importance to the state? How often would they engage in after-hours voting anyway? Well, as it turns out, it’s necessary to have clear rules on this. Why? Because so much
dirt happens in the dark that needs to be brought to light. It’s all about stemming the tide of ‘politricks‘. ‘Dark politricks’: the stealthy practise of late-night voting by sneaky politicians hoping to outwit one another and, simultaneously, pull one over on the public – is far too common and, by its very nature, designed to be destructive to the opposing side of the political aisle. Though the state of New York has elevated political game-playing to a fine art form, this is not just a New York issue. There are plenty of politricks examples that occur during daylight or late-night hours with which you can refresh your memory. My favourites include:
- New York and New Jersey’s redistricting in 2011 in which the configuration of districts was decided. According to Nestor Montilla, Sr.:
“In 2002, the New York State Task Force re-drew Senate District 30 and re-named it District 31 to allegedly reflect demographics changes as reported by the U.S. 2000 Census. The District was redrawn from 53.25% to 57.43% Latino, to make incumbent Senator Eric Schneiderman vulnerable to a Latino challenger….Schneiderman’s political aim was seen by Republicans as a threat to upset the power arrangement in the State Capitol where Democrats control the Assembly, Republicans control the Senate and consequently the redistricting process. The Task Force manipulated the redistricting process and drew District 31 majority Hispanic to punish Senator Schneiderman.”
- The year before the above example, there was the issue of a food safety bill in New York in the late hours passed against small farm owners. Mike Adams at Natural News noted:
“It is especially noteworthy to observe that the US Senate passed this bill in the dark of night, during a late Sunday night session when they hoped nobody was watching. This is an action they simply could not take in broad daylight during a normal business day when people might be paying attention. So they pulled a “quarterback sneak” and thrust this bill forward in a late-night session where nobody — and I mean nobody — had the courage to take a stand and vote against it.”
More recently, these cases gained national attention:
- Wisconsin’s union busting vote that began what ultimately became an unsuccessful bid to remove governor Scott Walker from office:,
Ask the folks in Wisconsin who, upon ushering in Tea Party backed Governor Scott Walker, witnessed their right to collectively bargain stripped away in front of their very eyes (in late-night and secretive votes). Organisations such as the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation – which says that they’ve been defending workers from ‘compulsory unionism’ for years — will tell you the ills of belonging to a union without giving credit at all to the many benefits workers and the nation’s economy gain as the result of labor unions.”
- And, among the dirtiest, this took place in Virginia:
During President Obama’s inaugural ceremonies, the Virginia State Senate passed a bill that would redistrict the state’s senate seats. The final 20-19 vote was made shameful by the fact that it would have been a tie had Democratic Senator Henry Marsh been present. Marsh, a civil rights leader, was in Washington, D.C., attending the President’s inauguration.
Whether one is for or against the legislation being voted upon becomes less of an issue than the less-than-transparent means by which legislation is enacted. It’s bad enough that we, the voting public, have to worry about politicians who run for office on one platform, only to then reveal themselves to be something or someone else altogether different once they occupy that office — but having to wonder about what lurks like an evil shadow in the night is both wholly unfair and destructive to our democracy. The road to transparency can be easily located; our elected officials need only to take a left turn to ‘Integrity Avenue’ as they steer clear of ’Conflict of Interest Lane’. New York State is on the right path with this measure; with a little nudging perhaps this effort will catch on nationwide.