Skip to Content
Morning Spew

Would You Believe There’s a Secret Committee in Albany That Decides What Becomes Law?

The "Working Rules" committee is informal, secret, and extremely powerful.

New Yorkers rest in the shade of trees in Tompkins Square Park.

(Hell Gate)

With just about a week left in the state legislative session, our lawmakers up in Albany are hard at work, reviewing and passing as many bills as they possibly can before heading home for the summer. 

How are they able to consider which of the hundreds of pending pieces of legislation will pass? If you guessed "quasi-secret committee that meets behind closed doors and doesn't discuss their work," congratulations—you should be the head of the State Senate! 

New York Focus published an investigation on the "Working Rules" committee, an informal group of State Senators deputized by Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins to consider legislation in private and determine whether it should make it to the floor for actual, public, (some might say "democratic") debate.

If you haven't heard of Working Rules, that's cool—some state lawmakers don't even know what it is. "I would guess that a big percentage of the membership doesn’t even know it exists," one source told Focus.

Working Rules’ internal procedures are informal, according to several sources. Staffers present hundreds of bills to the members in lengthy packets, which outline their estimated fiscal impact and include memorandums from interest groups such as New York University, the Archdiocese of New York, and the insurance industry lobby Health Plan Association.

The senators then seek to reach consensus on whether a bill should go to the floor. A single voice adamantly for or against a bill can sometimes carry the day. If there’s disagreement, the final decision may go to Stewart-Cousins.

Another apparent rule of being a part of Working Rules? Say it with me: Don't talk about Working Rules!

New York Focus approached every known member of Working Rules for comment. Some walked away. None agreed to discuss it on the record, and most declined to speak at all, referring questions to Murphy, the spokesperson for the Senate Democrats.

"It’s not my position to comment on those types of organizational matters," said Hoylman-Sigal, who was listed as part of the group last year but declined to confirm or deny his role. "It’s a Senate leadership issue that is led by the leader and I certainly can’t speak for anyone. In other words, above my pay grade."

"Working Rules is not something that I’m at liberty to discuss," Skoufis said.

A number of non-members were reluctant to discuss aspects of Working Rules, too.

Asked if he knew which colleagues sat on Working Rules or whether his bills had passed through the body, veteran Democratic Senator Joe Addabbo responded, "I'm not at liberty. I’d be silly to answer that question."

As the story points out, this process could be worse. In the State Assembly, there is also a secret committee, but it's located inside the brain of Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, who calls all the shots.

These links have been pre-approved by Hell Gate's Link Committee:

And finally: What if the hedge fund that owned the Daily News actually gave a shit about New York City or the Daily News?

Already a user?Log in

Thanks for reading!

Give us your email address to keep reading two more articles for free

See all subscription options

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Hell Gate

As Change to Broker Fees Looms, Real Estate Agents Are Suddenly Concerned That the Rent Is Too High

At a rally to oppose the FARE Act, REBNY and real estate agents expressed a newfound concern about rising rents and the lives of tenants.

New York State Lawmakers Once Again Fail to Pass Meaningful Climate Legislation

While Governor Hochul's last-minute congestion pricing "pause" had a lot to do with it, there's plenty of blame to go around.

We’re So Back: East Village Dollar Slice Joint Is Back to Selling 99 Cent Slices

Owner Sana Ullah said that cratering demand at the elevated price point motivated him to bring it back down.

We’re Not Alone in UFO Encounters Doc ‘They’re Here’

The film about UFO enthusiasts upstate premiered at Tribeca Festival and is light on aliens, heavy on community.

June 11, 2024
See all posts