Republicans in the New York state Senate Wednesday called for more sunshine — literally — in the state budget process.
The measure, a long-sought goal for Republican state Sen. Jim Tedisco, would require legislative activity to be conducted during traditional waking hours, and ban voting and debates at the state Capitol between 12 a.m. and 8 a.m.
The hope is members of the public would have a better understanding of what's happening with how more than $200 billion in state money is being spent.
"When we do this budget, I can't guarantee it, but when you look at history, it is going to be in the middle of the night," Tedisco said.
The proposal is being made as state lawmakers and Gov. Kathy Hochul are negotiating a budget that is due to pass on Saturday, though many expect that deadline will be blown as differences remain on key issues like changing New York's bail law, a statewide housing plan and taxes.
"We are going down right now the same old slippery slope that history has shown us has not worked very well in New York state," Tedisco said.
New York's state government has long been criticized for acting in secret. Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group believes the process can — and should — improve.
"They can have news conferences, they can, could explain what their positions are," Horner said. "There's lots that they can do, but right now they preferred to keep the windows shut."
Meanwhile, closed-door meetings in Albany continued on Wednesday as protesters demonstrated in the Capitol's hallways for measures like raising the state's minimum wage. Home health aide Kim Alleyne came to the Capitol from the Bronx to push for the wage increase, pointing to the rising costs she's facing.
"Right now my rent has increased by $200. That's from the first of March," she said. "I now have to pay $2,000 a month. That's just the rent."
Lawmakers are weighing a minimum wage increase to potentially more than $20 an hour and link it to the rate of inflation. State Sen. Jessica Ramos has backed a minimum wage hike proposal.
"I think that all of leadership is on the same page in terms of knowing that New Yorkers are feeling the squeeze and need to see a raise," Ramos said. "The difference in proposals is largely around how it is that we do it."