Monday, June 28, 2010

Borough Presidents Can Introduce Laws -- They Just Don't by Kathleen Lucadamo - NY Daily News

Read original....

The oil giant's not the only BP playing defense.

The city's five BPs -- borough presidents -- argue what they need is MORE power, not banishment, as many have suggested.

So I looked at the one little-known power they have: The ability to introduce laws.

According to their respective offices, it has been used about a half dozen times in the last decade.

Queens Borough President Helen Marshall has done it twice in nine years. Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer has done it twice in five years. Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. has done it once (the living wage bill) in two years.

Staten Island Borough President James Molinaro has never done it in nine years. And Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz has done "it once in the past year, and on one or two occasions earlier" during his nine-year tenure.

None of their laws have passed so far.

When the Charter Commission stripped the BPs of most authority in 1989, they gave them the ability to introduce laws in the City Council just as the mayor does.

The bill is introduced by a Councilmember "by the request of the borough president."

"We were trying to make players in the legislative process by giving them power to push an agenda," said Eric Lane, who headed that commission.

Now, the borough presidents disagree on its value.

"'By the request of the borough president?' What the hell does that mean?" said Molinaro, noting if the legislation is good, the Council members will want the credit for themselves.

"It's another weakness in the city charter," he said.

It makes more sense, he said, for him to negotiate with the three Staten Island Council members to make changes. Still, he acknowledged the larger boroughs don't have it as easy.

Stringer called it "a good weapon if it's not overused."

"It's a very effective way to weigh in on issues and work with local council members," he said.

Marshall, Diaz and Stringer said they'll be using it more in the future. The five BPs want broader powers including authority over agency bosses in their borough and an independent budget.

The latest charter revision is examining their role as well as a host of other issues but Lane suggests that their ability to introduce laws remain.

"Even if they don't use it, somebody will," he said.