EDITORIAL: A sneaky way to pass vital legislation

State Capitol Building in Albany.
State Capitol Building in Albany.

You can be forgiven if you missed it.

It was the start of a three-day holiday weekend, the first real holiday of the summer. Maybe you were making holiday plans or traveling or otherwise preoccupied with life. Or maybe you’re like most people who don’t pay much attention to the news on Friday nights and over the weekend.

But if you’re the New York state Legislature and Gov. Kathy Hochul, catching the public off guard at a time when they’re likely to be distracted by other matters is the ideal time to pass controversial legislation that might make a lot of their constituents upset.

By the time anyone figures out what they’ve done, it’s old news.

But what they did is not old news. It’s news that will affect New Yorkers’ rights for years to come.

And it’s not something responsible government officials rush through without a full legislative debate and public airing.

What they did, for those who may have missed it, is pass two major pieces of legislation to counter the effects of two recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings — one on abortion rights and another on gun control.

Regarding gun control, lawmakers passed and the governor signed legislation to significantly limit where people in New York will be able to carry guns under the new expansion of the nation’s concealed carry laws.

Besides limiting guns in virtually every public place imaginable, they also voted to: create a presumption of prohibition of guns in businesses, require pistol permit holders to disclose their social media accounts for three years, require that pistol permit holders go through 16 hours of in-person firearms training and require permit seekers to undergo in-person interviews.

Regarding abortion rights, both houses of the Legislature swiftly passed the first stage of a process for passing a new state equal rights amendment, which would extend protections to New Yorkers to access abortion.

Whether one agrees with the content or intent of the legislation is immaterial to the way in which lawmakers and the governor furtively rushed through this legislation at a time when the least amount of people would be paying attention.

Neither piece of legislation absolutely needed to be passed last week in what amounted to an emergency legislative session.

The public was in no more or less danger last weekend than they would have been had lawmakers waited until this week to discuss and vote on the bills. New York’s laws on concealed carry are already strict, and the deadline for a vote on the equal rights amendment ballot measure wasn’t until August.

Legislation affecting people’s rights should not be rushed through, especially when the people are distracted.

The timing and manner in which this legislation was passed and signed into law was a deliberate effort by the governor and Legislature to conceal their efforts while generating the least amount of resistance and negative publicity as possible.

That’s not how a responsible government serves its citizens.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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