Is This An Acceptable Way to Govern?






Editor’s note: This short essay by Joel Rose, Founder and Chairperson of CAGNY, was  distributed to members of the press in Albany May 29, 2012 and to legislators visited  by CAGNY members May 29-30.  It  reviews the  abuse of due process by which the legislature has handled certain bills related to gambling.  The March 14,  2012 vote for “first passage”  is a case in point. 

In his state of the state message this year, Governor Cuomo noted that “It’s time we confronted reality. It’s not a question of whether we should have gaming in New York — the fact is we already do.” He went on to urge a constitutional amendment so that “we can do gaming right,” whatever that means. Notice that gambling promoters always use the term gaming rather than gambling to try to create the impression that they are promoting something innocuous.

So the merits of the pro-gambling case come down to this: We’ve already used every trick in the book to get around the law in order to have gambling in this state. So now, let’s just take the gloves off and remove any remaining restrictions on casino gambling.

We note that New York been so successful in finding ways to allow gambling that according to its own study, New York already leads the nation in annual revenue from gambling. But no amount of gambling will ever be enough. If casinos are allowed, the argument will then turn to sports betting and Internet gambling.

Governor Cuomo and Speaker Silver have already let it be known that they do not want any casinos in Manhattan. They just want access to the revenue to be derived by putting them everywhere else in the state. If this activity would be beneficial for upstate, why not enjoy its benefits everywhere in the state?

So the Legislature, performing what passes for due diligence in this state, passed this amendment in the middle of the night. There were no hearings, so opponents were never able to testify. In fact, there was no debate. Article III, Section 14 of the Constitution specifies that every bill be held for final passage for three legislative days so that legislators may have time to read it and understand its ramifications, unless the Governor issues a “message of necessity,” indicating the reasons why it is necessary to waive the three-day requirement. Of course, governors routinely issue such messages, and legislatures routinely meekly accept them. And that was done in this case.

Now here we have a bill which could be passed anytime during this legislative session, with final passage not possible before January 2013. How could it possibly have been “necessary” to vote on it right away?

The final indignity to good legislative process: in the Senate, the Democrats, angered by the extreme gerrymandering of the majority redistricting plan, walked out, all except for four “independent” Democrats who generally vote with the Republicans, and were absent for all the votes taken that night. Thus, this important vote on casino gambling was taken with only 36 of the 60 Senators present.

So our question to our fellow citizens, and particularly to our legislators, is this: Is this an acceptable way to govern?

The opinions expressed in this piece are those of the author, Joel Rose, and do not necessarily represent the opinions of any or all other members of CAGNY.