Susan Lerner of the good government group Common Cause NY says the legislature is a co-equal branch of government and cannot cede its responsibility to the governor by leaving town (figuratively speaking) after the budget.
Furthermore, she says any claim that lawmakers can’t do their job because of technology is rubbish.
To help hammer home that point, Common Cause invited the former chief information officer of the State Senate to participate in a Zoom press conference today.
Andrew Hoppin said the technology is there to host votes, committee meetings, public hearings and anything else that democracy needs to function.
“We laid a lot of groundwork back circa 2010 to do remote work,” said Hoppin. “This included setting up Wi-Fi in senate offices, iPads for senators, live streaming, and freeing data.”
But there are a few procedural flies in the ointment. For example, lawmakers are still required to handwrite any signatures; in other words, digital signatures aren’t kosher in the world of New York state government.
Also, bill co-sponsors need to physically sign legislation. Lerner also reports that the resolution the legislature passed this week for remote voting requires anyone who wants to vote “no” to be physically present in the chamber.
Non-COVID-19 issues including marijuana, bail, and an expansion of absentee voting should all be addressed post-budget, said Lerner.