This year’s effort to pass a statewide police discipline bill is even more of a sham than in other years, according to local politicians.
For the fifth time, the Democrat-controlled Assembly has proposed a bill that would force all municipalities to negotiate discipline with their police union. But this time, in an effort to avoid embarrassing an embattled governor who has already vetoed the bill once, the Democrats who control the Senate may not even propose the bill.
On the previous four occasions, the bill passed both houses but was vetoed by the governor.
Councilman Gary McCarthy has been calling the state effort a “sham” and a “charade” for more than a year, noting that even though the Assembly and Senate overwhelmingly approve the bill, with enough votes to overturn a veto, they never try to do so.
Still, the City Council geared up Monday to fight the bill again. This time, they offered a twist: they asked state Sen. Hugh T. Farley, R-Niskayuna, to get them exempted from the legislation so they wouldn’t have to go to the trouble of opposing it yet again.
In response, Farley said state politics this year will likely keep the bill far from the floor.
“The chances of the bill happening are slim to none,” he said. “A bill that’s been vetoed so many times isn’t going to even get passed this year, in my opinion. The new [Democratic Senate] majority hasn’t passed more than a handful of bills this year. They’re way behind.”
Besides, he said, the vote would only embarrass Democratic Gov. David Paterson.
He said that when his party held the majority in the Senate, they were only willing to keep passing the bill to embarrass the new Democratic governors.
They had previously passed the bill once but it was vetoed by Republican Gov. George Pataki. That, Farley said, was enough for them. But they supported it three more times as a way to embarrass the new Democratic governors, he said.
“When the Assembly passed it, the Republican Senate didn’t mind sending it on to a Democratic governor to be vetoed,” Farley said. “A veto is an embarrassment, really.”
That embarrassment is precisely why the Senate won’t pass the bill now, with Democrats in the majority, he said.
“I think they don’t want to embarrass the governor,” he said.
Of course, the Democrat-controlled Assembly passed the bill repeatedly under Democratic governors. But Farley noted that bill sponsor Assemblyman Peter Abbate Jr., D-Brooklyn, hasn’t yet gotten a Democrat to introduce the bill in the Senate. The Democrats won control of the Senate this year.
“The whole situation has changed. I don’t even know if anyone’s going to introduce the bill,” Farley said, adding that if it is proposed, “The chances are the Senate will not pass it.”
City leaders plan to fight the bill just in case.
On Monday, they unanimously expressed opposition and, at the same time, asked to be exempted from the bill.
Farley was somewhat incredulous about that request.
“I’ve never heard of exempting somebody in a statewide bill. I doubt very much they would do that — it’s a very unusual request,” he said.
Abbate, as the bill sponsor, would have to support the exemption, he added, calling that “unlikely.”
Mayor Brian U. Stratton agreed, but pressed on with it anyway.
“We’re just trying to find another way to protect that right [to discipline],” Stratton said. “I’m sure we’ll see a groundswell of opposition from the PBA, which doesn’t want to be disciplined. And other PBAs may see it as a slippery slope — if we get it, what’s to say other municipalities won’t ask for it? But I don’t see any harm in trying. We’re certainly sick of trying to fight it.”