ALBANY, N.Y. — When the legislature passes a bill, it is done out in the open during a public session. But before bills come to the floor, they must pass through a committee.
This week, a Senate committee, in a quiet open meeting outside the Capitol building, passed a bill requiring committee meetings to be webcast and have those votes posted online within 24 hours.
"Well, the Senate already does it. As you know, before we started we turned on the video so this meeting was already taped, but the Assembly does not. So, we think it ought to be universal. We'd like to see the entire legislature under the same operating rules," said state Sen. Carl Marcellino, R-Syosset.
Good-government groups say the Senate is ahead of the Assembly on the issue. After a leadership coup in 2009, a number of reforms were adopted in the upper house.
"It passed the Senate last year and it did not pass the Assembly. It was told to us at the time by Speaker Silver's staff that this was something they were going to do administratively but that hasn't yet happened and really that has been the case for several years now," said Alex Camarda, Citizens Union.
We asked Speaker Sheldon Silver this week if the transparency bill will come up for a vote in the Assembly.
"Absolutely. We have an open television policy as you know, and we wanted to do a C-SPAN type broadcast here that will include a lot of other things," said Assemblyman Silver, D-Assembly Speaker.
But when we asked the bill's sponsor in the Assembly, Democrat Andrew Hevesi of Queens, he refused to speak with us on camera. He says he's been told by the speaker's staff that the bill has no chance of passing.
"Given all the concerns about the legislature with all the scandals we've seen, this is a positive step they can take to show that their body is doing good work and there are good things happening," Camarda said.
Another issue is that the public is not notified about committee meetings online, including when and where the meeting is taking place. Critics say this is yet another transparency issue that needs to be rectified.