Wednesday, February 9, 2011

NYS Bills rack up the Bills

(A more expansive version of this post can be found in Sunday's edition of The Daily Gazette)
This week the New York Legislature will pass the 8,000 mark for bills introduced. This wouldn't be a big deal, except that it represents a waste of time and money, at a point when the state is facing a $10 billion budget deficit and really needs to pinch pennies.
In regards to the waste of time, which is really a secondary concern, the biggest offender is one house bills that have no chance of passing in the other house. This reality is mostly a product of divided government, which means that the Republicans in the Senate are trying to appease a different base than the Democrats in the Assembly.
So instead of addressing bills that have a legitimate chance of passing or focusing on crafting meaningful compromises, the two chambers get caught up in crafting bills that will make for good press conferences.
Worse than the one chamber bills, though, are the ones that won't even progress through the committee process. These "repeat offenders" are familiar bills from years passed that politicians introduce each year to cover their political rear end in order to please their constituents or lobbyists. One quality offender is Democratic Senator Carl Kruger, who has introduced 340 bills this session, with only five new bills. This is more of the same from Kruger, who has about 1 percent of his bills become law each year, as he continues to reintroduce the same pointless legislation each year.
But how does this impact tax payers? Well, if you trust the Democrats in the Assembly, the thousands of bills introduced each year will only cost $400,000. Their argument is that it costs 2 cents per page, with about 20 million pages printed each year.
If we accepted those numbers (which I don't), John Paeglow of Integrated Book Technology says that his company could do the printing cheaper. Paeglow said his company, which previously had many more printing responsibilities, could do the bill printing at three-quarters of a cents per page.
Therefore, based on numbers from the Assembly, IBT could cut the legislature's printing costs in half. Unfortunately, that's only if you accept this ridiculous premise floated by the Assembly...
To find a more accurate cost shouldered by the state you need to account for the people involved in the printing of bills, such as legislative staffers, lawyers and the personnel that make up the Legislative Bill Drafting Commission. If you figure in these costs then you're looking at about $2,200 per bill, according to Assemblyman William Barclay, R-Central New York. He noted that the real costs come from the man hours in printing, and not the paper or ink.
This is why Barclay has introduced a bill that would tie the hands of the Krugers, Englebrights and Pretlows of the world, by limiting the number of bills they could introduce. Besides allowing the legislature to hone its focus, this change could have the effect of saving millions of dollars. Because honestly, who wouldn't want to smoke salvia divinorum with a tax rebate in their pocket? (Too inside baseball?)

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