Of the 212 New York state legislators, 12 didnt pass a single bill through their own house this year.
And three of them all Republican members of the Assembly represent areas of the north country, according to an analysis by the New York Public Interest Research Group.
But the lack of legislation from Assembly members William A. Barclay, R-Pulaski, Janet L. Duprey, R-Peru, and Kenneth D. Blankenbush, R-Black River, says more about the legislative process in Albany and the Democrat-dominated Assembly than it does about their legislative prowess, the lawmakers contend.
Minority members in the Senate or Assembly cant get any bills passed, other than local bills, Mr. Barclay said. And this year, I didnt have any local bills.
Local bills, often referred to as home rule legislation, are passed as a matter of routine to set a countys sales tax rate, for example, or to name a highway after a deceased soldier.
Issues that Mr. Barclay had hoped to address, such as a bill to crack down on felons getting public assistance, failed to gain traction in the Assembly, where Democrats outnumber Republicans 2 to 1.
Indeed, the average Assembly Democrat passes nine bills a year Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, D-Theresa, passed eight while the average Republican passes two. Of the 11 members of the Assembly who didnt pass a single bill, only one Assemblyman William F. Boyland Jr. of Brooklyn was a Democrat. Mr. Boyland spent all of the past session under indictment on federal bribery charges.
But he still introduced three bills, which is more than the two bills that Ms. Duprey introduced. For Ms. Duprey, its a style choice.
We spend so much time in Albany debating one-house bills that are not going to go any place, over really silly things, Ms. Duprey said. I wont do it. I wont put in something that Im not really committed to.
Only half of the bills that pass the Assembly eventually pass the Senate, according to the NYPIRG analysis. The purpose of a one-house bill isnt to change public policy, because the bill also must pass the Senate; usually, a legislator will pass a one-house bill just to say that he or she passed it, Ms. Duprey said.
And that gets expensive.
Only seven other legislators four of whom didnt serve full terms introduced fewer bills in the 2011-12 legislative session than Ms. Duprey, who represents Clinton and Franklin counties and is running in a redrawn district that will include four St. Lawrence County towns (Piercefield, Hopkinton, Lawrence and Brasher). She introduced five bills in the previous session, four of which passed.
The two bills that she authored this year were introduced late in the session, she said, and with more time, theyre likely to pass. One would establish a wine trail in Clinton County. The other would prevent registered sex offenders from using campgrounds.
Kids run loose there, Ms. Duprey said.
Mr. Blankenbush likewise said that hes reluctant to push for one-house bills. A freshman legislator, he said hes become frustrated by the process in Albany. Bills dont actually fail on the Assembly floor (according to NYPIRG, no bill has failed in the Assembly since 2005). They simply get stuck in committee, often with little explanation of why they cant come up for a vote.
If you take a look at the bills that are common-sense bills, you shake your head and you say, Why in the world are they stopping something like this? That is frustrating, Mr. Blankenbush said. You get to the point where you say, What can I do?
Members of the minority often will find a Democrat to help them shepherd their legislation through, Mr. Blankenbush said. He has worked with Democratic Assemblyman William Magee on a bill that would legalize larger all-terrain vehicles in the state, though that hasnt yet passed.
He was on his own on a bill that would convert Clifton-Fine Hospital to a nonprofit, which would save 90 jobs and ensure the survival of the hospital, supporters said. Union opposition stopped the bill. Mr. Blankenbush, who is expected to run unopposed for a second term, said hell learn more in the next go-around.
Youve got to keep going at them and trying to build up bipartisan support. Next term Im a little bit more experienced, so I think well have a better rapport, he said. Twenty-five new assemblypeople will be down there. The dynamics will be changed next time.