Here’s how Albany works.
Technically, after a bill is printed, legislators are supposed to wait at least three days before casting a vote on it, so they’d have time to actually read it. The fact that this has to be spelled out by law says something about how the legislative process up there works. But, as with most things meant to make life in Albany more reasonable, there’s a way around it.
A “message of necessity” from the governor’s office allows legislators to temporarily do away with the three-day aging requirement. As the name of the memo suggests, there’s a “necessity” for sometime voting on things immediately.
Here’s a copy of the “messages of necessity” Cuomo’s office sent to legislators, during the recent vote on his budget.
“The facts necessitating an immediate vote on the bills are as follows: The bill is necessary to enact the 2011-2012 State budget.”
One person who doesn’t like the results of Cuomo’s budget said to me, “What’s the point of passing a budget on time when there’s not enough time to read it?”
Tom Precious noted that the most important part of Cuomo’s budget — the state education figures — weren’t made public until 9 p.m., hours before the vote. Thomas Kaplan referred to the scene in Albany during the budget vote as “pandemonium.” “At times,” Kaplan wrote, “legislators did not seem entirely sure about what they were voting on.”
To be fair, it’s not like legislators could have substantively done much to alter the budget Cuomo handed them. The governor had signaled that if they didn’t pass his budget, on time, he’d submit his budget in piecemeal, through a series of emergency expending bills meant to keep the state operating on an interim basis while budget negotiations continue. Budget extender bills can’t be altered by legislators; only voted up or down. Meaning, Cuomo’s budget would get accepted, or legislators would have to affirmatively take steps to shut down government. And plus, there aren’t 212 chairs in the room where the governor negotiated the bill with Skelos and Silver
And who’d want to bring everything to a grinding halt?