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Legislative Process in New York
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Legislative Process in New York

1. A legislator believes an existing law should be changed or an entirely new law should be put into place. The genesis could be a local or national event or hot-button issue, an objective/initiative of a statewide organization or a matter of great concern to a constituent. For PSSNY initiatives, CPA contacts potential sponsors or works with interested legislators, compiles necessary documentation and submits written drafts.

2. Legislative staff researches, compiles relevant materials, drafts the potential bill, its description, justification and sponsor's memo and sends this preliminary draft to Legislative Bill Drafting (LBD). For PSSNY initiatives, CPA assists legislative staff.

3. LBD finalizes the bill and returns it to the sponsor. The bill draft may be circulated among same-party legislators in the same house for additional sponsors. For PSSNY initiatives, CPA works to identify additional sponsors or if time is short will request that the bill be introduced and assigned a number immediately. At this time the bill draft can be made available to the CPA identified sponsor in the other house where the same process takes place. Bills introduced simultaneously can carry both senate and assembly bill numbers or can be printed separately and be listed as 'same as'. Once the bill is assigned a number, it becomes a part of the official state record. At this time the bill is open to public scrutiny from other interested, supporting or opposing groups or individuals.

4. Senate and Assembly leaders assign the bill to its initial and every subsequent committee. They also determine whether a bill will be allowed onto the floor for a vote.

5. After a bill is assigned to a committee, committee staff and the committee chair decide whether a bill is placed on a committee agenda. CPA focuses on the committee chair and key raking committee members as well as the sponsor in a effort to address concerns, answer questions, fine-tune the language, provide additional documentation, etc. Opponents of the bill are also targeting the committee chair, ranking members and bill sponsors to raise objections. At this point, committee chair staff and central staff review and evaluate the arguments presented and positions taken, asses the politics, analyze technical drafting issues and work to understand every facet of the proposed change in the law.

6. Once the bill is on a committee's agenda, organized lobbying interests generate memos of support and opposition. The committee votes on a motion from the chair. (The motion is to move the bill to the next specified committee or to hold the bill.) If a bill becomes too controversial, the sponsor can request that it be removed from the agenda or the chair can make that decision prior to or at the committee meeting. Committee members and their staff scrutinize the bills on agenda, evaluate the arguments, consider the politics, hear from leadership and decide how to vote.

7. At a specified date during the session, every bill is automatically assigned to the rules committee prior to going to the floor for a vote. For opponents of a bill, this step provides an additional opportunity to defeat it.

8. Leaders with the assistance of their staff of attorneys and policy analysts (referred to as 'program & counsel') control the bills placed on rules committee agendas as well as the floor calendars. Once a bill is 'on the calendar,' it may or may not come to a vote.

9. A bill that passes in one house does not necessarily pass in the other.

10. In order for a bill to go to the Governor's desk, identical bills must pass both houses.

11. Once a bill passes both houses, it must be sent to the Governor before the end of the calendar year. The house that passes the legislation first has the responsibility to transmit it to the Governor's desk. In 2006, a new rule was adopted that assembly bills (those that pass the assembly first) must be transmitted within 45 days. For example, the deadline for the 'morning after pill' bill was August 5. (The Governor vetoed the bill on the same day it hit his desk.) As a general rule, the Governor has until midnight of the tenth day to decide, discounting the day it goes over and Sundays.

12. Once a bill passes both houses, the Governor's legal staff and advisers analyze the legislation from every perspective, solicit comments from agencies and interested parties and draft recommendations. The Governor makes the final decision to sign, veto or sign the bill with "chapter amendments" (a deal with the sponsor/s that an amending bill will be passed in the next legislative session to fix minor or technical problems.)

NB. The Governor introduces the budget bills directly to the legislature under Article VII provisions of the state's constitution. His "program" bills are introduced through legislative sponsors. The Governor has his own lobbying team to work with the legislature on bills that he initiates. The Attorney General and the State Comptroller also have lobbyists. All of these bills follow the path outlined above.

According to present law and a recent court decision interpreting the law, only the Governor can propose budget bills. The legislature is forced to reach agreement with the executive on the budget. The budget reform referendum before the voters in November would increase the power of the legislature to independently pass a state budget.

Prepared September '05 by Elizabeth Lasky, Capital Public Affairs