To the editor:
As a result of last September’s Democratic primaries, grassroots campaigns across New York State disposed of six very entrenched Democratic state senators and replaced then with progressive politicians intent on passing forward-looking legislation which had foundered in the Republican-controlled state senate for many years.
After the general election in November, several Republican senators lost to their Democratic challengers, and the senate was firmly in Democratic hands.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who had become accustomed to dictating the outcome of the state’s legislative process, was asked what he thought would change in Albany given that the Democrats had seized control of the senate. He dismissed the notion that anything had changed, and asserted that the Democratic senate amounted to nothing more than the rearranging of “deck chairs.”
However, come January, it became clear that the progressive faction in the senate was effecting the changes they promised. They passed, in very short order, voting reform measures, the Reproductive Health Act, the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, the New York Dream Act, and the Child Victims Act.
Suddenly, the activists who powered the grassroots campaign which had changed the landscape in Albany appeared to the governor to be a threat. And, apparently as a result, the governor has included in this year’s budget proposal “lobbying reform,” which would — if passed — mow down the grassroots. The provisions he’s proposed would require any individual or group that expends as little as $500 a year reaching out to elected officials to register as lobbyists, to pay a $200 per year filing fee, to complete a mandatory training course, and to file six spending reports per year, as well as semi-annual reports.
Any group of any size that undertakes a trip to Albany by train or bus, prepares placards for demonstrations, sends postcards to their legislators, or hosts meeting with even the most minimum of refreshments, would spend that $500 in the blink of an eye.
The governor’s proposal is not lobbying reform. It is, pure and simple, intimidation of the grassroots.
The budget is now being negotiated in Albany. The legislature should reject this retrogressive proposal and focus on the real problems confronting our state.
Elizabeth Lang, Betsy Malcolm