One Republican state senator, told the Joint Committee on Legislative Management Thursday that the Democratic majority is writing its own rules and in one instance, at least one Democratic leader doesn’t completely disagree. Republican state Sen. Judith Freedman warned the Democratic majority that its bully tactics will erode the public’s trust in the legislative process. “I appreciate that the Democrats have the majority, but we still have to debate and vote on proposed legislation according to the agreed upon rules,” Freedman said in a press release Thursday. President Pro Tempore Sen. Donald Williams, D-Brooklyn, agreed Friday that at least one of the provisions Freedman was concerned about was “a little bit unusual.” He said he would like legislation on this particular issue move forward, but doesn’t want to discount Freedman’s concern over how it got there.
“It’s not surprising there’s frustration with procedural rulings,” he said. “There’s always going to be issues folks don’t agree with.” “I don’t want to discount her concerns,” but there’s always going to be competing pressures to move business along as quickly as possible while addressing the issues that need to be addressed, he said. “It’s fair to ask the best way to accomplish something.” Freedman’s discontent with the procedure stems from actions taken by the legislature’s two-budget writing committees: Finance, Revenue, and Bonding and Appropriations. The Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee approved 26-21 included a ban on school soda contracts in a bill for school technology.(Read SB 373.) Williams said it was not unusual for committee’s to vote on substitute language. Perhaps the more egregious parliamentary action Freedman referenced happened last week when the Appropriations Committee snuck a provision into its spending proposal even though it already died in committee. The Democrats spending proposal included language that said hospitals would have to provide emergency contraception to rape victims if they wish to share in the $5 million set aside to help cover skyrocketing energy costs. The provision caused a huge outcry from the four Catholic hospitals in the state. The Catholic faith doesn’t believe a woman should terminate conception once its begun.“Controversial provisions, some of which were rejected during the committee process and others not even considered by other legislative committees, miraculously showed up for a vote,” Freedman said. Then, when Republicans tried to restore the $50,000 the four Catholic hospitals would lose under the Democrats proposal, the rules had changed, Freedman said, and the minority party was told it wasn’t germane to the issue. “The rules say one thing one day, and something else the next day, depending on what the Majority wants to see happen,” she said. For more than two hours the Democrats filibustered the Republican amendment to restore the funding Tuesday. The filibuster ended with a Bible story by one freshman legislator. State Rep. Deborah Henrich, D-Madison, told the story of the Good Samaritan until the clock struck 5 p.m. Shortly before the meeting adjourned, Republican Minority Leader Sen. Louis DeLuca turned toward the door in frustration and said, ” Now I’ve heard everything. They’re using the Bible against the Catholic Church.”