Report: Session passes fewest bills since 1914

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, left, appears at New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, left, appears at a news conference with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, center, and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, R-Rockville Centre, right, at the Capitol in Albany, N.Y. (June 21, 2012) Photo Credit: AP

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ALBANY -- The 2012 state legislative session resulted in the fewest number of bills passed since at least 1914, according to a new report.

The analysis published Monday by the New York Public Interest Research Group, a nonprofit research and advocacy group, showed that Assemb. Robert Sweeney (D-Lindenhurst) and Sen. Jack Martins (R-Mineola) led the Long Island delegation in getting bills approved by both houses of the State Legislature.

At the other end, Assembly members Al Graf (R-Holbrook), Thomas McKevitt (R-East Meadow) and Andrew Raia (R-Huntington) failed to get any legislation through the legislature. Those in the political minority in either house -- Republicans in the Assembly, Democrats in the Senate -- rarely get more than a handful of their bills passed.

During Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's second year in office, the legislature approved 571 bills, according to NYPIRG's Bill Mahoney. That's the fewest since before World War I. In 1914, Gov. Martin Glynn signed 532 bills into law. But records don't clearly indicate how many were vetoed, so it's possible the number of bills the legislature passed that year was greater than 571.

The number of bills passed annually has declined steadily since the 1960s, Mahoney noted. The drop probably is related to the fact that the state budget increasingly includes proposals that used to stand separately.

In the 1960s, the legislature passed an average of 1,363 bills a year. By the 1990s, it was down to 818, and since 2010 the average is 655, NYPIRG said.

Among governors over the last 90 years, Nelson Rockefeller, a Republican who served from 1959 to 1973, saw the highest average number of bills passed annually: 1,356.

The lowest average, 625, was claimed by Cuomo, who has often used the word "historic" during his 18 months to describe the range of measures enacted. His office didn't return an email message for comment.

Sweeney, the most senior member of the Suffolk Assembly delegation, led Long Islanders in the chamber with 19 bills approved. Assemb. Harvey Weisenberg (D-Long Beach) finished second with 14.

Graf said numbers don't tell the whole story. He said the legislature passed several bills that he originally authored, but that he had to relinquish sponsorship to Assembly Democrats in order to get them passed. He cited a measure to create a new Suffolk County traffic violations bureau, which is expected to allow the county to keep more ticket revenues.

"I learned the game in Albany," said Graf, still in his first term. "To pass anything, you need a Republican in the Senate and a Democrat in the Assembly . . . So I can hand off bills or I can let my ego get in the way and watch legislation die."

Individual bill totals are higher in the Senate, where there are 62 members competing to pass bills compared with 150 in the Assembly.

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