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September 27, 2009 - 2:42pm

Lee supports House rule change aimed at more transparency in legislative process

posted by Howard B. Owens in Chris Lee.

Press release:

WASHINGTON – Congressman Chris Lee (NY-26) issued the following statement today after signing a discharge petition to amend the House rules to require that legislation be posted on the Internet for at least 72 hours before a vote on the House floor. More than 170 Members of Congress have signed on to this petition, which are used to force a vote on legislation that has been blocked by the majority leadership. Lee said:

“Western New York taxpayers deserve the ability to weigh in on these important and complicated pieces of legislation which are being rushed through Congress.

“As we saw with the ‘cap and trade’ national energy tax legislation and the enormous ‘stimulus’ spending bill, leaders in Congress have denied the American public the right to full transparency in the legislative process.

“This bill will allow Members of Congress, the American public and the press 72 hours to actually read the huge bills that are often introduced in the dead of night. This common-sense reform is long past due."

Bea McManis
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Amazing, not one Republican wanted this when the Bush administration used this tactic over and over. Sigh
Adama Brown
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Not to mention, he's abjectly misinforming people. The cap and trade bill was reported out of committee and in the public domain for a MONTH before the House voted on it. Even the stimulus bill, which was by far the fastest moving piece of legislation this year, was introduced 3 days before the House vote and a month before the Senate vote. Compare to, say, the PATRIOT Act, where even members of Congress weren't allowed to read the bill before voting on it. Somebody's representing by press release again, trying to look like a hero by crying smoke where there is no fire.
Jeff Allen
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Amazing, Obama campaigned on posting all legislation for a specified amount of time so that both the public and our representatives could read it, and it took Republicans to hold him to his failed promise. Sigh
Bea McManis
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You'd rather have the way the Bush administration pushed through the Patriot Act? I believe in transparency, and I believe that this administration is 200% more transparent than the last. However, the markups that the Republicans have added to this bill are outlandish ("any state that starts with the letter U"). Publish it. There is nothing to hide in that bill, it has been discussed ad nausium.
John Roach
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Bea, Do you know of any Dem. that had a bill like this when Bush was pres?
Jeff Allen
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No Bea, I'd rather have the transparency Obama promised during his campaign, but since he failed to deliver it, at least someone is picking up the ball and running with it.
Bea McManis
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Posted by John Roach on September 27, 2009 - 7:56pm Bea, Do you know of any Dem. that had a bill like this when Bush was pres? When the GOP held the majority for 12 years, the last eight with Bush, do you think a bill like that would get out of committee?
Jeff Allen
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Why keep rehashing what Bush did or didn't do and address the original article. Why does it take Republicans to fulfill one of Obamas failed campaign promises. The President promised during his campaign and reiterated it during inaugural week that he would post legislation on the White House website for 5 days before acting on it. Now it takes the Republicans to get at least 72 hours.
Charlie Mallow
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Bea brings it up because she is making a point about how this is nothing more than pure politics. It is hypocritical to take a stand when your in the minority you wouldn't when you were in charge. There is also no debating that Republicans ran the State and Federal government for the last 8 years and they laid waste to everything.
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Jeff, there's a difference between a campaign pledge to publish materials through the White House website--which they have been doing, subject to the organizational problems of multiple bills, multiple amendments, updated language, conference reports, etcetera--and legally mandating a 72 hour waiting period before a vote. You act like this was something Obama was supposed to pass and hasn't. Changing how you intend to administer the White House website isn't the same thing passing a bill through Congress. Charlie is dead on target. This is like the Republicans in the State Senate suddenly making noise about equal shares of power and perks for the minority. They spent 43 years in control of the chamber deliberately trying to minimize what the Democratic minority could eke out, but the minute they're ousted, they're suddenly singing the praises of reform and full minority participation. It's an attempt to look good, not to engage in real transparency.
Jeff Allen
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"You act like this was something Obama was supposed to pass and hasn't." With all due respect, I'm acting like this is something Obama promised and failed to deliver. The purpose of the proposed legislation is transparency. No one has talked transparency more than Obama and yet he has failed to make good on it. The President promised that legislation would be posted on the White House website for 5 days for public review AND comment before he signed it. He called it "sunlight before signing". It took him only days in office before he broke it and he has done so dozens of times since and on some very significant legislation that in retrospect could have used some public scrutiny. You can argue semantics all you want and rehash the same old Bush-bash but the facts remain, it is Republicans that are holding Washington to the broken transparency promises that Obama abandoned.
John Roach
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Bea, The Dems control things now and a Dem did not do it. My question still stands, did any Dem even try, under Bush, yes or no? And as we see by Lee's bill, not being in the majority is not an excuse. Even if it a "stunt", it is the right thing to do. Why didn't the Dems try before?
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I think it is evident, by the mere fact that the bill made it out of committee, that the "Dems" as you call them are in favor of transparency. So am I. To be blind to the fact that the Republicans wouldn't allow much that the Democrats proposed to even get out of committee is far too partisan. Take a few steps back and think about the climate of the times. Do you truly believe that a bill asking for transparency would have made it to the floor?
John Roach
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Bea, Again, was there ever a Dem who proposed this? We all favor transparency, so why didn't a Democrat put the bill forward? Does anyone really care?
Political or not.... Personally I believe it doesn't go far enough. If we can have sites like Facebook where people put every fleeting thought they have up in a matter of seconds, why can't we have a government site that uploads every bill that's on the market and where it stands. Further have an open forum where we, the public, can voice our opinion. Its my right as a citizen to see what is being discussed if I want to. Not just the headline stuff either. Why limit it? Who cares who brought it to the table. I'm not interested in political games. Make it open for all.
Howard B. Owens
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Phil, it should go further still -- our elected officials should openly discuss these bills, responding directly to constituents. Elected officials should be willing to publicly explain their actions. We need to get beyond press release and sound bite politics.
John Roach
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Howard hit the nail on the head.
Bea McManis
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Posted by Howard Owens on September 28, 2009 - 10:19am Phil, it should go further still -- our elected officials should openly discuss these bills, responding directly to constituents. Elected officials should be willing to publicly explain their actions. We need to get beyond press release and sound bite politics. Isn't that what the Town Hall meetings were all about, discussing the bill and explaining their position? It was difficult to respond to constituents when they were being shouted down. That wasn't press release politics nor was it sound bite politics. To clarify this point. I don't care who it is, nor their party affiliation, the ability to speak to their constituents, in a public forum, without the circus we witnessed this summer is vital to the process. Members of Congress go home during the summer recess to do just that. This is why we see them at county fairs and other summer events. This is their time to connect, face to face. Many of them who are less well known probably do better at this without the cameras dogging them.
Works for me, Howard! Although with the amount bills they pass without us ever knowing, there may not be enough time :-)!
Howard B. Owens
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Bea, I think we're showing that for the most part we can civilly discuss issues on The Batavian without the rancor. We have little outbursts here and there, but for the most part, we have civil discussions. I'm not talking about town hall meetings. I'm talking about having comment ability right on the posts. Just like journalists _should_ engage in conversation about the stories they write, elected officials should read and respond to comments on the legislation they write and vote on. Phil, if they spent more time explaining themselves, maybe they would introduce less legislation. Double Win!
Bea McManis
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The easy way to do that would be to designate a hour a two a week where that is the format. A Q&A for all local officials to utilize and questions can be asked. They all would have an opportunity to respond. Right now, it is a scattergun approach. Questions are asked, but are only answered by local politicians if they happen to be logged on. Just a suggestion.
Howard B. Owens
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But that's not the goal -- the goal is to have more elected officials like Charlie who feel free to comment any time. That's the kind of government we should have -- free, open, transparent. Our elected officials should participate as a matter of it being the right thing to do, not just because somebody set up a special time for them.
John Roach
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"Right now, it is a scattergun approach. Questions are asked, but are only answered by local politicians if they happen to be logged on. " Bea, Some of them read this site all the time and refuse to come on now. There is no way to make them get a backbone.
Howard B. Owens
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I think all but the most retrograde (non-computer users or fellow travelers) read the site and the comments.
John/Howard, I think you are both right! A LOT of people read the Batavian to keep informed with the current local opinions and no they don't respond. I think they should as well. There will be plenty of things that happen, if I'm fortunate enough to get elected, that many people will not agree with. If I make the choice to vote for something, then I should have a reason. Why shouldn't I be asked to give it? Say what you want about him, Mallow is a straight shooter and very open. I respect him greatly!
John Roach
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Phil, How about my other two questions? 1) Do you support the School Boards request that the city help develop the property at the end of North Street into a sports complex? 2) Do you support the consolidation of the Youth Board/Service with the County to cut city taxes?
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No sports complex expecially if its for sssoccer. And eliminate the youth board all together and the mental health board and all the other money sucking government boards that don't do anything.
I did answer them John on the other thread....Here I will re-post. John, You're welcome. To answer the last three questions: 1.) I know very little about the North Street Project except to say that it is in initial grant seeking phases and might possibly not even happen. That said, I am not in favor of adding additional expenses on the city right now. I will not say one way or the other on the matter until I fully know all the facts. 2.) I believe I have answered you on this in the past, but if not... I am not interested in consolidating the two programs until the county can show me that the service programs will not be eliminated. As it stands right now, as it has stood in past attempts to do this, their would be no measure in place to continue youth programs in the city if the two agencies merged. That would be like saying let's consolidate the police with the county and no longer have city patrols. It wouldn't make a bit of sense. When we can talk about how Youth programs will continue, then I'll be, at that time, willing to hear both sides. 3.) Pat Burk and I have worked with each other in many different venues and I have never had a problem with disagreeing with him in the past! :-) I will do what I feel is the best thing for all of Batavia, not just the few. I will also be listening to what my neighbors say as I serve at their pleasure, not my own. That's why we are called Public Servants...An idea that I think has been forgotten too much by people interested more in political garbage. For the record, Pat Burk is a good man that has always done his best to help people in this city. I have all the confidence in the world, that if I told him I couldn't support something, he would either work with me or let it be. Hope that answers that.
Richard, I find your comment interesting. The Youth Board is a Committee chosen by council and does not cost taxpayers anything. The City Youth Program that you're so fast to kill is the least expensive program in the city and services more than 2,000 kids per year. Not to mention brings in a majority of it's funds from outside the city tax levy. The big consolidation that everyone is so keen on would save the city a total of $50,000 only IF the state provides the same funding levels! Good Luck. I always find it interesting how everyone is so against that program. The much better idea would be not to have it and give back the whopping $12 per $100,000 home per yer back. Tell the kids that benefit from it greatly to take off! All the while ignoring the fact we continue to have two city departments that constitute 60% of our budget! That sounds like sound math to me. Listen, I am not a fan of social programs, but I have seen the positives that this one has given for fractions of pennies on the dollar! We are having a meeting tomorrow night at the City Centre. Please feel free to drop in.
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The point is departments and jobs need to be cut and no one has the guts to do it.
Charlie Mallow
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Richard, do you realize the “money sucking” Youth Bureau manages to help feed a few hundred kids everyday during the summer? Do you know that they also give hundreds of kids a safe place to go after school, instead of keeping our police force busy? By the way, the Youth Board is a group of volunteers from the community and much of the things they do accomplish is through finding grants and donations. If adults have problems with money, we need to figure out real solutions. Picking on kids does not take guts. It takes guts to stand up for those who can’t defend themselves. Richard, don't they take care of kids in Texas?
Well that's where you wrong, sir. I have no problem making those decisions. That's why I'm running. I have submitted the first of many posts to Howard that will show where I stand on certain areas. They might not all be perfect, but they move in the direction of right sizing our service levels. I hope that you and I can bounce ideas off one another as they come out!
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Richard, You're wrong. There are some willing to cut, like Councilwomen Clattenburg and Christian, and I hope they both win their elections this year. Council did cut the ambulance service and the plumbing inspector to 1/2 time. It did get rid of the Economic Development Office. They made the cuts they could. Of course, many people objected (while at the same time saying we have to cut taxes), so we'll see how much support there really is for cutting this November.
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Charlie, As you well know, most of us are not talking about ending youth service, but consolidation with the County like the City Manager recommended. The value of the program is not an issue, cutting cost is.
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I would hope any grants, given to the city, would be used to help with education, and activities for all our youth. Not all kids would utilize a sports complex, and it would just be another Pork project that helps who?? The schools themselves are strapped for cash. Why not seek out grants to help the youth board? As far as consolidation of the Youth Board, they "do what they can" now with the limited funds that are available. Why not take steps to save money and consolidate. Just more working together for the better of our kids. Seems like the city find it so easy, to spend grants frivalesly? Time to Prioritize, and get with the program, in my opinion.

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