February 07, 2013Freshman Sen. Terry Gipson, D-Rhinebeck, has proposed the "Vampire Voting Bill" that would outlaw voting on most legislation between 9 p.m. and 9 a.m. The law would place no restrictions on debates, nor voting on rules or procedures, generally considered housekeeping items. Another freshman, Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk, D-Duanseberg, co-sponsored the bill.
Gipson said his proposal is an answer to a decades-old problem. He said the passage of his law would hold lawmakers accountable for their votes and lead to "more robust" debates on the Senate and Assembly floors.
"We have this huge leeway in the system that allows us to put everything off until the last minute," Gipson said. "Just look back at the history ... Anytime there is a big controversial vote, it almost always happens late at night — and that's done on purpose."
|Sen. Terry Gipson|
Gipson blasted the practice of loading a whole day's worth of bills into the end of session, which forces late-night voting and reduces a legislator's will and ability to read what they are voting on.
Gipson said the recent late-night vote on the controversial SAFE Act, regarding gun law restrictions, clued him in to how easy it is for the Legislature to end up voting "under the cover of darkness," but he strongly denies that his is a "knee-jerk" legislation.
"This is the reaction to me as a civilian or as a candidate watching business go on here in Albany and seeing this is a pattern," he said.
The aim of the bill is to halt this pattern, he said.
"I guarantee you that if we had a bill like this in place, the election results would be completely different. A lot of the senior people you see in the Senate and Assembly, they wouldn't be here anymore," Gipson said. "Because they would be held to a different level of accountability that they are not currently held to. So much of the important work they do is under the cover of darkness ... when only the vampires are roaming the halls of [the Legislature]."
Mike Murphy, a spokesman for the Senate democratic Conference, said Gipson's bill should "definitely be looked at" and agreed the Legislature should vote in the "light of day."
Gipson said he also believes the proposal of this bill will show who the real reformers are in the Legislature, because, he said, those are the people who would sponsor and vote yes on the bill. He also suggests passage of this law would show that Albany lawmakers are responsible and able to get their job done thoughtfully, and on time, as opposed to pushing bills through without having been properly read.
|"Every time we vote after midnight we drive a stake through the heart of our democracy."
Sen. Terry Gipson |
Bill Mahoney spokesman for New York Public Interest Research Group agreed it is a problem for laws to be printed and voted on while most New Yorkers are asleep.
"The public rarely gets a chance to weigh in on these or provide expert opinions as to how this might affect them," Mahoney said in a telephone interview. "There certainly needs to be better regulations."
"Every time we vote after midnight we drive a stake through the heart of our democracy," Gipson said