New York State Exposed: Assemblyman Mark Johns promotes SOLE Act bill

Posted at: 10/23/2013 12:03 PM
Updated at: 10/23/2013 5:46 PM
By: Berkeley Brean

Over the course of our work on our “New York State Exposed” series, we've heard from many people who say the system in Albany is broken. Only a handful of lawmakers with power get to make all the rules. A local lawmaker has an idea that would change that. 

In order for a bill to become a law, it first goes to committee. That's where most of the bills end up staying. They're never voted on. An idea is going around that would give every Assembly member the right to bring one idea straight to the floor for debate and a full vote. Just one every year. That could mean a better life for people in the Rochester area.

News10NBC's Berkeley Brean said, “When people think about what makes their life difficult, whether you get to vote on a bill or not doesn't seem to be one of them. So what difference does it make in people's lives?”

Assemblyman Mark Johns, (R-Fairport), said, “There are members down there who have bills to consolidate and streamline government.”

Fairport Assemblyman Mark Johns says those bills rarely get a full, fair vote. 

Johns said, “We can do all kinds of reforms that will save money and therefore we can lower taxes, keep some of our young people in the state and create jobs here.”

News10NBC brought the issue to Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle of Irondequoit. 

Assemblyman Joe Morelle, (D-Irondequoit) Majority Leader NYS Assembly, said, “I probably would not support a bill like that. Mark is a great friend and we work together quite a bit, but I think the best ideas become laws in New York, not simply handing out one idea to every member.”

Morelle says the system already lets individual members sponsor as many bills as they want. But News10NBC found in the New York Daily News that writer Bill Hammond says the legislature has a “corrosive culture” and that Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver single-handedly determines what “laws his members can bring to the floor and pass.” The SOLE Act, as Assemblyman Johns calls it, certainly gets around that. 

Dave Scrimenti, of Fairport, said, “I think it would be a great idea.”

Husna Lapidus, of Fairport, said, “I think there's pros and cons. It might be a waste of time for the Assembly people if some of the ideas aren't shut down right away.”

Brean asked, “Wouldn't this create the possibility that some ridiculous idea gets debated on the floor of the Assembly? What a waste of time.”

Johns said, “Well, we spend six months down there in session and if you're talking 150 members of the Assembly, that's only 150 bills. If someone comes up with a crazy idea, let them bring it forward. The discussion on the debate will last 60 seconds.”

Assemblyman Mark Johns says the idea that he would bring straight to the floor is term limits.

The irony is that the SOLE Act bill has to go through committee and when it was introduced early this year, it stayed in committee. Click here to read the SOLE (Sensible Opportunity for Legislative Equality) Act."

The next session in Albany starts in January.