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Rushing Through Bills Leads To Subpar Legislation In Albany

Anyone who has a few hours to kill should really take the time to see how much the state Assembly got done on the final two days of its 2019 legislative session.

The video is available on the Assembly’s website. Plan for more than 30 hours of viewing time, though, for just those two days of deliberations. Several times during those sessions, Assembly members made jokes about how late at night it was or the length of time they had been in chambers.

Is it any wonder, then, that the quality of legislation is subpar?

We’re referring to one piece of legislation that was broached with tons of fanfare to allow people to register to vote automatically. The only problem was the legislation had to be pulled after it was discovered it would have registered non-citizens as well as voters — the exact opposite action intended by the bill’s sponsors.

Not all bad legislation gets such a reprieve.

A state Court of Appeals panel noted last week that the Legislature’s wording of its e-STOP legislation in 2008 doesn’t actually compel sex offenders to disclose their Facebook or other social network programs that they use. Having sex offenders disclose both their internet identifiers and the social networking programs they use might have been part of the program’s intent, but it isn’t included in the bill the way it was written.

“Currently, e-STOP permits Facebook and other social networking sites to obtain the ‘internet identifiers’ used by sex offenders and, with those internet identifiers, determine whether a sex offender is utilizing their services, prescreen or remove sex offenders from their services and inform law enforcement of ‘potential violations and/or threats to public safety,'” the justices wrote. “The legislature could easily have included the mandatory disclosure provisions … the ‘authorized internet entities’ that a sex offender uses, such as Facebook. Presently, however, that statute does not require sex offenders to disclose to DJCS the authorized internet entities they use.”

We can’t help but note, too, the fuzzy language in the state’s “ability to pay” language that was of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s much ballyhooed legislation to bring balance to the state’s binding arbitration system. Jamestown is challenging an arbitration decision regarding its police union, but Judge James Dillon noted from the bench that the state’s 70 percent weighting to a municipality’s ability to pay “is really a terrible statute but the legislature doesn’t care. … Because frankly, my thought of that is as a lawyer, exactly how do I present this and what do I expect from a judge on 70 percent as opposed to 71, ext. But, nonetheless, it is the law.”

Perhaps if legislators stopped rushing through bills at the last minute and took the time to craft legislation that actually made sense, these mistakes wouldn’t keep happening.

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