State Senate Republicans have long opposed a plan to adopt publicly financed elections, and they held a hearing to lay out their case, but their decision to shut out several good government groups led to protest on the lawn of the State Capitol. NY1's Zack Fink filed the following report.
For several hours Tuesday, the Republican-controlled state Senate Elections Committee heard testimony on campaign finance reform.
But it was the decision of who does not get to testify that drew protests outside, as some good government groups who favor public financing were shut out.
"I'm just flabbergasted," said Susan Lerner of Common Cause New York. "I have absolutely no explanation for why they would do something like this, to lock out the government, to lock out the good government groups. I can't even get in the room to hear."
Taking their objections to new comedic heights, protesters then made their way to the Capitol lawn outside the hearing room, where they clamored on through the open window.
"Those groups have been invited to other public hearings on this topic," said Republican state Senator Thomas O'Mara. "The Independent Democratic Conference did one last week and they are doing another one next week, where some of those groups have been. So they don't need to be heard in every forum."
Advocates say New York State should model its system on New York City's, which includes public matching funds.
Others say that is not the right way for the state to go.
"They should have to raise 50 percent or more of the funds they need to run for office from the private sector," said former Deputy Mayor Randy Mastro. "Public funding can supplement a campaign, but it shouldn't be the primary funder of a campaign."
Republicans say public financing will cost the state at least $250 million per year.
"This is a huge expense, and unless it's really going to do something, we would be hard-pressed to approve it, in my opinion," said Republican state Senator John DeFrancisco.
On Tuesday, the Assembly passed their fair elections bill, which includes publicly financed campaigns. But Republicans have now made it clear that they will not let a similar bill pass their house, since they control every piece of legislation that comes to the floor.