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Preview: Russell points to 'structure' in Legislature, executive


I wanted to share a quick preview of the end-of-year retrospectives that I'm writing on our legislative delegation, tentatively set to come out later this month. I'll be speaking with Assemblywoman Addie Russell, Assemblyman Ken Blankenbush and Sen. Patty Ritchie.
I spoke today with Mrs. Russell, D-Theresa, who has the most legislative experience of the three. She has been in the Assembly for three years.
Mrs. Russell said the successful year in state government — an on-time budget, changes to the tax code that will give more money to the middle class while also taxing millionaires more, and the passage of the gay marriage law — were the result of "structure" in the Executive Mansion and the Legislature.
"Governor (Andrew) Cuomo brings an extremely focused approach to leadership, and really emphasizes certain issues and works to get those things accomplished in a more deliberate manner," Mrs. Russell said.
I don't think anyone would accuse former Gov. David Paterson's tenure, beside which Mrs. Russell worked for two years, as "focused" or "deliberate."
But she also said that more structure in the Legislature helped move things along,
In past years, "We also had leadership issues in the state Senate, which made it difficult to progress in a more disciplined manner." The agendas in previous years languished "because things weren't as structured in the Senate as they were this year."
I asked her if she was saying nice things about the state Senate GOP, which took power again in 2011 after two years in the legislative wilderness. A Republican-engineered coup and an extremely frustrating budget process highlighted the 2009 and 2010 legislative sessions when the Democrats were in charge.
"There's more discipline," Mrs. Russell said. "I'm not necessarily saying that's good or bad for the legislative process or the state."

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