Why should the governor be able to force an immediate vote on an unamendable bill?


The misuse of the Message of Necessity is at the heart of the dysfunction in Albany. It enables the governor and the two legislative leaders to force a vote on a bill without having to wait at least three days for it to be read, debated and discussed by the public, the media, or even the state representatives themselves, who aren’t allowed to even submit an amendment.

What was designed for to be rarely used in case of emergency has now become a regular tool for the governor and the two leaders to dictate legislation. This is the basis for the “Three men in a room” power structure that so cripples and corrupts the state.

The Constitution should be amended to require a 2/3 vote in the House and the Senate to enable a Message of Necessity.  California requires this 2/3 vote to enable a Message of Necessity, and includes other limits besides.  New York should replace our existing language with California’s.

In addition, the three-day requirement to discuss a bill before the vote needs to be expanded to at least five days or more. Nebraska, for example, requires five days of discussion before a vote can be held.  The longer period gives more time for a real democratic process to occur for legislation.

What do you think?

• Ideally, a governmental budget is created with full public transparency. But nine of the ten bills that make up this year’s Budget were passed by the Legislature soon after final amendments were added and bills were printed, using gubernatorial “messages of necessity” that bypass the three-day waiting period normally required by the State Constitution. The Legislature’s budget conference committee process was incomplete again this year. In many ways, transparency was sorely lacking. --Thomas DiNapoli, NY State Comptroller

• “Three days of debate, everyone has an opinion, it’s entirely transparent, we never reach resolution,” Cuomo said. “I get 100 percent for transparency. I get zero for results.” Governor AAndrew Cuomo, Long Island Press, December 12, 2011.

• Governor Andrew Cuomo has used the Message of Necessity three times just to pass a budget.

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Article III, Section 14

No bill shall be passed or become a law unless it shall have been printed and upon the desks of the members, in its final form, at least three calendar legislative days prior to its final passage, unless the governor, or the acting governor, shall have certified, under his or her hand and the seal of the state, the facts which in his or her opinion necessitate an immediate vote thereon, in which case it must nevertheless be upon the desks of the members in final form, not necessarily printed, before its final passage; nor shall any bill be passed or become a law, except by the assent of a majority of the members elected to each branch of the legislature; and upon the last reading of a bill, no amendment thereof shall be allowed, and the question upon its final passage shall be taken immediately thereafter, and the ayes and nays entered on the journal.
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The 1894 Constitution introduced a new concept for transparency that required a 3 day waiting requirement on legislation before final passage in order to secure public comment and prevent last-minute amendments or hasty and careless legislation.  In order to provide for rapid legislation in the face of a public emergency an exception was included for those instances where the Governor certified the necessity of immediate passage.

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• Only 1 state grants the governor the power to call for an immediate vote: NY.

• 18 states require a 2/3 vote or more by the legislature to waive the waiting time for a vote on a bill: AK, AR, AZ, CA, FL, ID, IN, KS, MN, MO, MS, NJ, NV, OH, OR, TX, UT, WV

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Good Government Groups Question Use of Message of Necessity,” by Susan Lerner, Common Cause, January 15, 2013.

How Often Are Messages of Necessity Used?” by Nick Reisman, NY State of Politics, January 17, 2013.

Ignoring Criticism, Cuomo To Issue Budget Message of Necessity,” by Ashley Hupfl, City & State, March March 28, 2015.

What is a ‘Necessity’ is Albany Question,” by Mike Vilensky, The Wall Street Journal, April 1, 2014.