Government of New York
The Government of New York is the governmental structure of the state of New York as established by the New York State Constitution. As in all 50 states, it is composed of three branches: executive, legislative and judicial. The head of the executive branch of the government of New York is the Governor. The Legislature consists of the Senate and the Assembly. The judicial branch consists of the New York State Court of Appeals and lower courts.
New York's legislative process is notoriously cumbersome and problematic. New York's legislature also has more paid staff (3,428) than any other legislature in the nation. Pennsylvania, whose staff is the second largest, only has 2,947, and California only 2,359. New York's legislature also has more committees than any other legislature in the nation.
The head of the executive branch of the government of New York is the Governor, who is assisted by the Lieutenant Governor. Both are elected on the same ticket. Additional elected officers include the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, and the Comptroller.
There are several executive departments:
- Department of Education
- Department of Labor
- Department of Taxation and Finance
- Department of Environmental Conservation
- Department of Health
- Department of Public Service
- Department of Corrections and Community Supervision
- Department of Transportation
- Department of Financial Services
- Department of State
- Department of Motor Vehicles
- New York State Police
Many of New York's public services are carried out by New York state public-benefit corporations, frequently known as authorities or development corporations. The most famous examples are probably the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which oversees New York City's subway and suburban commuter transportation, and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (actually a bi-state agency). Some of New York state public-benefit corporations have come under fire in recent years. The New York Times, for instance, has come to see many of them as obsolete and wasteful, even going so far as to refer to them as a shadow government. Far from unique to New York State, and actually fairly common in English-speaking countries, public benefit corporations give the state the opportunity to carry out economic goals and infrastructure maintenance while making risky investments that don't put the state's credit on the line.
The New York State Unified Court System is the official name of the judiciary and is based in Albany. The court system in New York tends to produce mild confusion for outsiders. In general, the judicial system is composed of the trial courts, consisting of the superior courts and the inferior courts, and the appellate courts.
The appellate courts are the:
- Court of Appeals
- Appellate Division of the Supreme Court
- Appellate Terms of the Supreme Court
- Appellate Sessions of the County Courts
The superior courts are the:
- Supreme Court
- County Courts (not in New York City)
- specialized courts (Courts of Claims, Family Courts, Surrogate's Courts)
And the inferior courts are the local courts:
- District Courts
- City Courts (such as the New York City Courts)
- Justice Courts (Town and Village Courts)
The highest court of appeal is the Court of Appeals (instead of the "Supreme Court") whereas the primary felony trial courts are the Supreme Court and the County Courts (outside of New York City). The Supreme Court also acts as the intermediate appellate court for many cases, and the local courts handle a variety of other matters including small claims, traffic ticket cases and local zoning matters, and are the starting point for all criminal cases. The New York City Courts make up the largest local court system.
The counties of New York, outside New York City, all have towns with municipal governments of their own. These towns can also contain villages. Those living outside of cities and Indian reservations in New York State automatically live inside towns. Both towns and villages are incorporated municipalities. The Constitution of New York enumerates the powers of local governments, such as the power to elect a legislative body and adopt local laws, and eminent domain.
In 1898, when New York City was consolidated into its present form, all previous town and county governments within it were abolished in favor of the present five boroughs and unified, centralized city government (the Government of New York City).
Budget and finance
From 1984 through 2004, no budget was passed on time.
The state has a strong imbalance of payments with the federal government. New York State receives 82 cents in services for every $1 it sends to Washington in taxes. The state ranks near the bottom, in 42nd place, in federal spending per tax dollar.
For decades, it has been the established practice for the state to pass legislation for some meritorious project, but then mandate county and municipal government to actually pay for it. New York State has its counties pay a higher percentage of welfare costs than any other state, and New York State is the only state which requires counties to pay a portion of Medicaid.
The Law of New York consists of several levels, including constitutional, statutory, regulatory and case law, and also includes local law, ordinances, and regulations. The Constitution of New York is the foremost source of state law.
The legislation of the New York State Legislature is published in the official Laws of New York and codified in the Consolidated Laws of New York. State agencies promulgate regulations in the New York State Register which are codified in the New York Codes, Rules and Regulations. Because New York is a common law state, every opinion, memorandum, and motion sent by the Court of Appeals and the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court is published in the New York Reports and selected Appellate Term and trial court opinions are published in the Miscellaneous Reports. With respect to the government of New York City, the New York City Administrative Code is the codified local law, and the Rules of the City of New York contains the regulations promulgated by city agencies.
In 2002, 16,892 bills were introduced in the New York legislature, more than twice as many as in the Illinois General Assembly, whose members are the second most prolific. Of those bills, only 4% (693) actually became law, the lowest passing percentage in the country. In 2004, over 17,000 bills were introduced.
The Assembly has long been controlled by the Democrats, the Senate by the Republicans, and there was little change in membership in elections until those of 2008. As a result, decisions are taken when "three men in a room"—the Senate Majority Leader, the Speaker of the Assembly, and the Governor—agree. For many years the legislature was unable to pass legislation for which there was supposed to be a consensus, such as reforming the so-called Rockefeller drug laws.
Unlike most states, New York electoral law permits electoral fusion; thus New York ballots tend to show a larger number of parties. Some are permanent minor parties that seek to influence the major parties, while others are ephemeral parties formed to give major-party candidates an additional line on the ballot.
New York State has consistently supported Democratic candidates in federal elections. Presidential candidate John Kerry won New York State by 18 percentage points in 2004, while Al Gore won by an even bigger margin in New York State in 2000. Bill Clinton twice scored his third best performance in New York. In 2000, the state gave Al Gore his second highest total. Many of the state's other urban areas, including Albany, Ithaca, Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse are also Democratic. However, upstate New York, especially in rural areas, is generally more conservative than the cities and tends to vote Republican. Heavily populated suburban areas such as Westchester County and Long Island have swung between the major parties over the past 25 years, and often have local races that are tightly contested.
New York State has consistently voted Democratic in national elections. However, New York City has been the most important source of political fund-raising in the United States for both major parties. Four of the top five zip codes in the nation for political contributions are in Manhattan. The top zip code, 10021 on the Upper East Side, generated the most money for the 2000 presidential campaigns of both George Bush and Al Gore. Republican Presidential candidates have often skipped campaigning in the state, taking it as a loss and focusing on vital swing states.
- New Report: New York’s Legislative Process Most Dysfunctional In Nation
- "Local Government Handbook" (PDF). New York State Department of State. 2008, 5th edition. pp. PDF page 66. Retrieved July 5, 2009.
- Gibson & Manz 2004, pp. 257–258.
- "Detailed Census Bureau map of New York". 2000. pp. "p. 4; Note the towns of Champlain (Clinton County), Chateaugay (Franklin County), and Bellmont (Franklin County)". Retrieved 2009-06-13.
- Gibson & Manz 2004, p. 258.
- "Local Government Handbook - Town Government" (PDF). New York State Department of State. 2008. pp. 63–70. Retrieved 2009-03-29.
- "Local Government Handbook - Local Government Home Rule Power" (PDF). New York State Department of State. 2008, 5th edition. pp. PDF page 35. Retrieved 2009-06-22.
- Gibson & Manz 2004, p. 257.
- "Local Government Handbook - New York City" (PDF). New York State Department of State. 2008, 5th edition. pp. PDF pages 60–62. Retrieved 2009-06-22.
- Three men in a room