New York State Legislature

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New York State Legislature

Seal of New York.png
General Information
Type:   State legislature
Term limits:   None
2015 session start:   January 7, 2015
Website:   Official Legislature Page
Senate President:   Kathy Hochul (D)
House Speaker:  Carl Heastie (D)
Majority Leader:   John J. Flanagan (R) (Senate),
Joseph Morelle (D) (Assembly)
Minority Leader:   Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D) (Senate),
Brian Kolb (R) (Assembly)
Members:  63 (Senate), 150 (Assembly)
Length of term:   2 years (Senate), 2 years (House)
Authority:   Art III, Sec. 3, New York Constitution
Salary:   $79,500/year + per diem
Last Election:  November 4, 2014
63 seats (Senate)
150 seats (House)
Next election:  November 8, 2016
63 seats (Senate)
150 seats (House)
Redistricting:  New York Legislature has control
The New York Legislature is the state legislature of New York. It is a bicameral legislature, consisting of the lower New York State Assembly and the upper New York State Senate. The Legislature is not perceived well by the public. Past corruption was sometimes referred to in colorful terms like the "Black Horse Cavalry."[1]

The legislature is seated at the New York State Capitol in Albany.

As of May 2015, New York is one of 19 states that is under divided government and is therefore not one of the state government trifectas.

See also: New York State Assembly, New York State Senate, New York Governor


Article III of the New York Constitution outlines the legislative power for New York's government. Article III does not limit when the Legislature can convene in regular session. However, Section 18 of Article III does contain provisions related to special sessions of the Legislature. Section 18 states that a special session can be called by a petition of request from two-thirds of both legislative houses.


See also: Dates of 2015 state legislative sessions

In 2015, the Legislature will be session from January 7 through December 31 (Projected).

Major issues

Major issues during the 2015 legislative session include lifting the cap on charter schools, increasing the minimum wage, criminal justice reform, campaign financing and ethics reform.[2][3]


See also: Dates of 2014 state legislative sessions

In 2014, the Legislature was in session from January 8 through June 23.

Major issues

Major issues during the 2014 legislative session included a raise in the minimum wage, a cut in corporate tax rates, rebuilding airports and other infrastructure, legalizing medical marijuana and property tax rebates.[4]


See also: Dates of 2013 state legislative sessions

In 2013, the Legislature was in session from January 9 to December 31.

Major issues

Gun control topped the list to be addressed by legislators in 2013. Other major issues included raising the minimum wage, securing federal dollars for victims of Superstorm Sandy, education, job creation, legalizing casinos off of Native American lands and restrictions to the New York City Police Department's stop-and-frisk procedures.[5]

Gun control:
Following the December 14, 2012 school shooting in Newton, Connecticut, Gov. Andrew Cuomo sought to make gun control a major issue in 2013. To that end, one of the first things the Legislature did in its 2013 session was to pass a tougher assault weapons ban that included restrictions on ammunition and the sale of guns, as well as provisions to keep guns from the mentally ill who make threats. New York was the first state to pass new laws after the tragedy.[6]

In July 2013, amid a legislative session riddled with political corruption, Governor Andrew Cuomo established an investigative commission by executive order under the Moreland Act and New York Executive Law. The committee, joined by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, was tasked with examining public corruption, including potential wrongdoing by legislators in campaign fundraising. Any branch of the state government was under the authority of the committee, which recommended changes to law and ethics rules in addition to the possibility of referring any misconduct cases for prosecution.[7] The commission released its report on December 2, 2013.[8]


See also: Dates of 2012 state legislative sessions

In 2012, the Legislature was in session from January 4 through June 22.

Major issues

Redistricting was a divisive issue in 2011 and had to be dealt with in 2012. Other issues included addressing a $3.5 billion budget gap and a proposal to ban hydrofracking.[9]


In 2011, the Legislature was in session from January 5 to June 20.[10]


In 2010, the Legislature convened its regular session on January 6. The Legislature remained in regular session throughout the year. Additionally, the Legislature was in an ongoing special session, which convened in 2009, dealing with issues of deficit reduction.[11]

Role in state budget

See also: New York state budget and finances
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New York operates on an annual budget cycle. The sequence of key events in the budget process is as follows:[12][13]

  1. Budget instruction guidelines are sent to state agencies in July or August.
  2. State agencies submit budget requests in September.
  3. Agency hearings are held in October and November.
  4. The governor submits his or her proposed budget to the New York State Legislature on or before the second Tuesday following the first day of the annual meeting of the legislature, which typically falls in mid-January.
  5. The legislature adopts a budget in March. A simply majority is needed to pass a budget.
  6. The fiscal year begins in April.

New York is one of 44 states in which the governor has line item veto authority.[13]

The governor is constitutionally required to submit a balanced budget. In turn, the legislature is required by statute to pass a balanced budget.[13]

Cost-benefit analyses

See also: Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative Cost-Benefit Study
Map showing results of the Pew-MacArthur cost-benefit study.

The Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative released a report in July 2013 indicating that cost-benefit analysis in policymaking led to more effective uses of public funds. Looking at data from 2008 through 2011, the study's authors found that some states were more likely to use cost-benefit analysis, while others were facing challenges and lagging behind the rest of the nation. The challenges states faced included a lack of time, money and technical skills needed to conduct comprehensive cost-benefit analyses. New York was one of the 10 states that used cost-benefit analysis more than the rest of the states with respect to determining return on investment regarding state programs. In addition, these states were more likely to use cost-benefit analysis with respect to large budget areas and when making policy decisions.[14]

Ethics and transparency

Following the Money report

See also: "Following the Money" report, 2014

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group, a consumer-focused nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., released its annual report on state transparency websites in April 2014. The report, entitled "Following the Money," measured how transparent and accountable state websites are with regard to state government spending.[15] According to the report, New York received a grade of B+ and a numerical score of 88, indicating that New York was "advancing" in terms of transparency regarding state spending.[15]

Open States Transparency

See also: Open States' Legislative Data Report Card

The Sunlight Foundation released an "Open Legislative Data Report Card" in March 2013. New York was given a grade of A in the report. The report card evaluated how adequate, complete and accessible legislative data was to the general public. A total of 10 states received an A: Arkansas, Connecticut, Georgia, Kansas, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Washington.[16]


See also: Redistricting in New York

The New York Legislature is responsible for redistricting. While there is a six person commission on redistricting, known as the Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment (LATFOR), it only acts in an advisory role. The final deal must meet with approval from the Department of Justice.[17]

2010 census

New York received its 2010 census data on March 23, 2011. The state's growth rate was at 2.19%, well below the national rate of 9.7%.[18] Redistricting became a major issue in the state prior to the November 2010 elections. Going into the elections, the organization NY Uprising asked all candidates to sign a pledge to support nonpartisan redistricting during the following legislative session. A majority of those who won in both chambers signed the pledge.[19] Additionally, Governor Andrew Cuomo consistently reiterated his pledge to veto any new maps that were not drawn through a nonpartisan process.[20] Meanwhile, Republicans added more friction to the process in September 2011 when they were said to be considering adding a 63rd seat to the Senate. Democrats balked, saying it didn't make sense to add a seat in the chamber when slow population growth caused the state to lose seats in Congress.[21]

The two sides battled over the issue of redistricting during the entire 2011 session. Following a number of delays, LATFOR released proposed Senate and Assembly maps on January 26, 2012. The Senate plan included the additional 63rd seat. Gov. Cuomo continued to threaten to veto the maps, but began to tone down his rhetoric.[22] On March 11, LATFOR filed a bill of their final plans, which closely resembled the maps they released two months earlier. Along with this, leaders offered a constitutional amendment that would set up a new bipartisan commission on redistricting following the next census in 2020.[23] Following a walkout of Senate Democrats, the bill passed. Later that week the constitutional amendment passed. However, in order to become law, it must be passed by the next separately elected legislature and also approved by voters in a referendum.[24] With that approved, Cuomo stated, "It’s over once and for all"[25] and signed the maps into law.[26]

Legislative Houses

Legislative elections are held in November of every even-numbered year. Both Assembly members and Senators serve two-year terms without term limits.

In order to be a member of either house, one must be a citizen of the United States, a resident of the state of New York for at least five years and a resident of the district for at least one year prior to election.

The lower Assembly consists of 150 members, each chosen from a single-member district. The Senate includes a varying number of members. The New York Constitution provides that the default membership be fifty members. However, it provides that if any county would by virtue of its population be entitled to more than three Senators, then the first three Senators would count towards the limit of fifty, while the remainder would be in addition to the fifty. Currently, there are twelve additional Senators (who are in terms of legislative power equal to any other Senators), making the total membership sixty-two. This accounts for the large percentage of the state population taken up by New York City and its suburbs (usually estimated at about 60%, depending on which counties are included as suburbs). Senate districts are currently between two and three times more populous than Assembly districts.


Each member represents an average of 312,550 residents, as of the 2010 Census.[27] After the 2000 Census, each member represented 306,072.[28]

Party As of May 2015
     Democratic Party 31
     Republican Party 32
Total 63

The chart below shows the partisan composition of the New York State Senate from 1992-2013.
Partisan composition of the New York State Senate.PNG


Each member represents an average of 129,187 residents, as of the 2010 Census.[27] After the 2000 Census, each member represented 126,510.[28]

Party As of May 2015
     Democratic Party 105
     Republican Party 44
     Vacancy 1
Total 150

The chart below shows the partisan composition of the New York State House of Representatives from 1992-2013.
Partisan composition of the New York State House.PNG


Partisan balance 1992-2013

Who Runs the States Project
See also: Ballotpedia:Who Runs the States and Ballotpedia:Who Runs the States, New York
Partisan breakdown of the New York legislature from 1992-2013

New York State Senate: From 1992-2013, the Democratic Party was the majority in the New York State Senate for two years while the Republicans were the majority for 20 years. The New York State Senate is one of 13 state senates that was Republican for more than 80 percent of the years between 1992-2013.

Across the country, there were 541 Democratic and 517 Republican state senates from 1992 to 2013.

New York State House of Representatives: During every year from 1992-2013, the Democratic Party was the majority in the New York State House of Representatives. The New York State House of Representatives is one of 18 state Houses that was Democratic for more than 80 percent of the years between 1992-2013.

Across the country, there were 577 Democratic and 483 Republican State Houses of Representatives from 1992 to 2013.

Over the course of the 22-year study, state governments became increasingly more partisan. At the outset of the study period (1992), 18 of the 49 states with partisan legislatures had single-party trifectas and 31 states had divided governments. In 2013, only 13 states had divided governments, while single-party trifectas held sway in 36 states, the most in the 22 years studied.

The chart below shows the partisan composition of the Office of the Governor of New York, the New York State Senate and the New York State Assembly from 1992-2013. Partisan composition of New York state government(1992-2013).PNG

SQLI and partisanship

To read the full report on the State Quality of Life Index (SQLI) in PDF form, click here.

The chart below depicts the partisanship of the New York state government and the state's SQLI ranking for the years studied. For the SQLI, the states were ranked from 1-50, with 1 being the best and 50 the worst. New York experienced a Democratic trifecta from 2009-2010. During half the years of the study, New York was ranked in the bottom-10. Its lowest ranking, finishing 43rd, occurred from 2005-2006, during a divided government. Its best ranking also occurred during a divided government, finishing 32nd in 2011.

Chart displaying the partisanship of the New York government from 1992-2013 and the State Quality of Life Index (SQLI).



See also: Comparison of state legislative salaries

As of 2012, members of the New York Legislature are paid $79,500/year and per diem of $61/half day and $171/full day. Per diem varies and is tied to the federal rate.[29]

The $79,500/year that New York legislators are paid as of 2011 is the same as they were paid during legislative sessions in 2007.[30][31]


Some legislators in New York are able to begin collecting a state pension while still serving in office and also receiving their normal salary. Under state law, if a lawmaker took office prior to 1995, they are eligible to begin collecting an annual pension once they turn 65. Those who took office after 1994 are not able to collect a pension while still in office. As of 2011, Rep. Herman Farrell (D) was the highest-paid state legislator, collecting his $113,500 salary as well as a pension of $81,619.[32]

When sworn in

See also: When state legislators assume office after a general election

New York legislators assume office January 1st.


The Assembly is headed by the Speaker, while the Senate is headed by the President, a post held ex officio by the State Lieutenant Governor. The Lieutenant Governor, as President of the Senate, has only a casting vote. More often, the Senate is presided over by the Temporary President, who is also the Majority Leader, or by a senator of the Majority Leader's choosing.

The Assembly Speaker and Senate Majority Leader control the assignment of committees and leadership positions, along with control of the agenda in their chambers. The two are considered powerful statewide leaders and along with the Governor of New York control most of the agenda of state business in New York.

Party control

After the 2012 elections the New York State Legislature was split by party. There was a coalition between the Republican caucus and the Independent Democratic Conference at 35-26 with two not affiliated with any caucus and the Democrats held a 106-43 seat majority in the Assembly. Among the top reasons for this split included the more conservative upstate region holding more clout in the State Senate, as well as Long Island, where voters were increasingly trending towards the Democrats on the state and local levels (Long Island was once overwhelmingly Republican) but continued to re-elect their incumbent Republican state senators (some of whom served for many years, such as 30+ year veteran Caesar Trunzo, and most of whom raised considerable amounts of money to deter challengers). Republicans held eight of the nine state senate seats for Nassau and Suffolk Counties.

Republicans in the State Senate lost ground in prior years, particularly in Westchester County and New York City, though they still held a few senate seats representing parts of Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island (which leaned Republican at most levels of government). Economic troubles and population loss in Upstate New York was also a factor, as Democratic-leaning areas of that region became more important in recent elections. In the past, Democrats would occasionally switch parties when they ran for Senate so they could sit with the majority. Democratic gains led to fewer defections from the party.

The Assembly had been dominated by Democrats for about 30 years, with Republicans losing ground in this chamber as well. Between 2002 and 2005, the Republican conference dropped from 53 seats to 45. Republicans even lost some districts that historically have been reliably Republican, especially on Long Island. One crucial reason for the Democrats' dominance is that they controlled 63 of the 64 districts that are assigned to New York City (an extension of the party's dominance at most other levels in the city).

Constitutional amendments

According to Article XIX of the New York Constitution, the state legislature has the power to propose amendments to the constitution as follows:

  • Any proposed amendments must be referred to the New York Attorney General, who is required to provide a written opinion as to how the proposed amendment fits in with other provisions of the constitution.
  • If both chambers of the legislature (the New York State Senate and the New York State Assembly) agree with the proposed amendment by a simple majority vote, the proposed amendment is then referred to "the next regular legislative session convening after the succeeding general election of members of the assembly."
  • If that next session of the legislature agrees with the amendment by a simple majority vote of both chambers, "it shall be the duty of the legislature to submit each proposed amendment or amendments to the people for approval in such manner and at such times as the legislature shall prescribe."
  • If a general statewide vote approves the amendment by a simple majority vote, it becomes a part of the constitution on the "day of January next after such approval."[33]

See also

External links


  1. Chronicles of America, "In the New York Assembly," accessed June 19, 2014
  2., "Another NYS Legislative Session Underway... Lawmakers Ready To Tackle Issues," accessed January 21, 2014
  3. Vermont Public Radio, "New York Lawmakers Face Major Issues In 2015," accessed January 21, 2014
  4. Epoch Times, "After speech, Cuomo looks to get agenda approved," January 9, 2014
  5. Spokesman Review, "NY legislative leaders buckle down on gun controls," January 9, 2013
  6. Yahoo News, "NY seals 1st state gun laws since Newtown massacre," January 15, 2013
  7., "Cuomo creates panel to investigate Legislature," July 2, 2013
  8. Moreland Commission, "Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption Releases Report," December 2, 2013
  9. Poughkeepsie Journal, "Divisive issues to test Cuomo's popularity in 2nd year," January 9, 2012
  10. National Conference of State Legislatures, "2011 Legislative Sessions Calendar," accessed June 6, 2014(Archived)
  11. National Conference of State Legislatures, "2010 Legislative Sessions Calendar," accessed June 19, 2014(Archived)
  12. National Conference of State Legislatures, "State Experiences with Annual and Biennial Budgeting," updated April 2011
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 National Association of State Budget Officers, "Budget Processes in the States, Summer 2008," accessed February 21, 2014
  14. Pew Charitable Trusts, "States’ Use of Cost-Benefit Analysis," July 29, 2013
  15. 15.0 15.1 U.S. Public Interest Research Group, "Following the Money 2014 Report," accessed April 15, 2014
  16. Sunlight Foundation, "Ten Principles for Opening Up Government Information," accessed June 16, 2013
  17. New York Observer, "Backgrounder: How Redistricting Will Reshape New York's Battle Lines," December 27, 2010
  18. Wall Street Journal, "New York State Loses 2 Seats in House," accessed December 22, 2010
  19. Auburn Pub, "Koch expects legislators to deliver on pledge," January 2, 2011
  20. New York 1, "Advocates air concerns over NY's redistricting process," December 14, 2010
  21. New York Daily News, "State Senate Republicans mull adding extra seat to 62-member body," September 19, 2011
  22. New York Daily News, "Gov. Andrew Cuomo vows to veto Republicans' redistricting plan," January 26, 2012
  23., "New York releases its final redistricting maps for state Senate and Assembly districts," March 12, 2012
  24. Reuters, "New York lawmakers approve redistricting amendment," March 15, 2012
  25. Capital New York, "Cuomo says redistricting is fixed, and on transparency: 'You can't live your life in a goldfish bowl'," March 15, 2012
  26. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named cong_approved
  27. 27.0 27.1, "Population Distribution and Change: 2000 to 2010," accessed May 15, 2014
  28. 28.0 28.1, "Census 2000 PHC-T-2. Ranking Tables for States: 1990 and 2000," accessed May 15, 2014
  29. National Conference of State Legislatures, "2011 NCSL Legislator Compensation Table," accessed June 19, 2014
  30. National Conference of State Legislatures, "2010 NCSL Legislator Compensation Table," accessed June 19, 2014
  31. Empire Center, "Legislative Salaries Per State," accessed June 19, 2014(Archived)
  32. USA Today, "State lawmakers pump up pensions in ways you can't," September 23, 2011
  33. New York Senate, "Constitution of New York State," accessed June 19, 2014