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The 2012 legislative session was historic all right.
The state Legislature passed 571 bills in the 2012 session – the lowest one-year total since 1914, according to the New York Public Interest Research Group.
The decline follows a trend that began in the 1960s and is likely related to the fact that, more and more, the state budget encompasses issues that used to stand separately, said NYPIRG’s Bill Mahoney.
In the 1960s, the Legislature passed an average of 1,363 bills annually. By the 1990s, it was down to 818; and by the 2010s (so far), the average is 655.
Meanwhile, the state budget just keeps growing.
In 1969, the budget was 577 pages long, Mahoney said. This year? 2,890 pages.
Governors, beginning with former Gov. George Pataki in the 1990s, generally have included more items in the budget bills as a way of gaining leverage in bargaining with the Legislature.
Another reason for the decline in bills, Mahoney noted, is that earlier decades featured expansions of major programs involving the economy, welfare and the environment, requiring new legislation to establish these initiatives.
Mahoney tallied the number of bills passed under every governor going back to Nathan Miller in 1921-1922.
The highest? Nelson Rockefeller (who served from 1959 to 73), at 1,356.
The lowest? Current Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who has often used the word historic during his 18 months in office, 625.