Budget Negotiations On Going
Early Voting Won't Likely Be Included
It's been a difficult week for everyone here in Albany. We started off the week optimistic that early voting was still at play in the state budget. Our optimism quickly turned to defeat after we learned that on Sunday, the Assembly had met behind closed doors and discussed pulling all non-germane reforms from the budget, including early voting. We had planned to position advocates with signs in support of early voting around the Capitol for the week and although we had a handful of fantastic volunteers spend the day walking the halls, it just wasn't enough.
Throughout the week we heard more and more rumblings that the Senate and Assembly was set on passing a budget void of any reforms. Early voting, ethics, bail reform, the Child Victims Act, the Women's Agenda, and gun control reforms were all tabled in order to allow the speedy passage of a "non-controversial" budget bill. This year all members of the Assembly and Senate are up for reelection; many have speculated that the legislature wanted to pass a speedy bill in order to get back to their districts and begin campaigning. Others have speculated that the desire to end on time was spurred by the upcoming holiday. Regardless of the reason, the reforms we had been promised by the Governor and Assembly were pulled out of the budget and discarded.
On Wednesday, we joined many of our partner organizations including Planned Parenthood, Citizen Action, Alliance for Quality Education, Strong Economy for All, Moms Demand Action, and the LetNYVote coalition for a press conference shaming the Legislature and Governor for leaving our issues out of the budget. There was a huge crowd of advocates and speakers on every progressive reform that was promised and then left out of the final budget. You can read more about the press conference in this week's
The state budget is released in several parts and voted on as separate packages. A total of ten bill packages will need to be released and voted on between now and April 1st. So far, 7 bills have been introduced and 5 have been voted on. Much of the voting has been done in the dead of night before the members even had a chance to truly read through the language. Every year we complain about the lack of transparency in this process and this year was no different.
Voting and negotiations will continue today and may continue into the weekend.
Thus far, early voting has been totally removed from these negotiations. We are extremely disappointed at not only the lack of transparency in these negotiations but also the complete disregard for the people's desire to pass this reform.
We will continue pushing for voting reforms in the final three months of session. Although it will be difficult to pass early voting without a funding tie, there is still an opportunity to pass the legislation this year with a start date of 2019. If we can pass a reform that won't begin until 2019, we can push for funding for the program in the 2019-2020 budget.
In addition to early voting, we will turn to our other priority voting reforms that DO NOT have funding ties. These reforms include: no-excuse absentee voting, primary consolidation, changing voter registration deadlines, automatic voter registration, and streamlining of ballots.
Keep an eye on our
for live updates on what's going on in the final hours of this budget process.