In a rare challenge to City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Bronx Councilman Oliver Koppell is trying to force a vote on his bill to make all yellow cabs accessible to wheelchairs. NY1's Grace Rauh filed the following report.
Bills that make it to the floor of the City Council all have one thing in common: City Council Speaker Christine Quinn supports them. The speaker determines which pieces of legislation move forward and which ones die in committee or languish without a hearing.
But Bronx Councilman Oliver Koppell is invoking a rarely used council rule to force a vote on a bill that he wants enacted. It would require the next class of yellow taxi cabs be accessible to people in wheelchairs.
"This is the time. And if we let this time go by, there may not be an opportunity for many many years," Koppell said.
He sent a letter to the chair of the transportation committee explaining that he is using the rule, known as "sponsor's privilege," to compel the committee to vote on his bill, which has 35 co-sponsors.
"All I want is a vote by the committee. If the committee votes it down, then I'll determine what to do," Koppell said.
He would need the support of six other members to force a vote by the entire council.
Just because the taxi bill has significant support within the City Council does not mean that its passage is guaranteed. It is one thing for a council member to sign onto a bill that the speaker does not support. It is a far bolder move to vote in favor of that legislation over her objection.
"The speaker has a lot of power in the council and people respect that power," Koppell said.
The respect is so strong that the sponsor of another popular bill, which would require many businesses to provide paid sick leave, has declined to demand a vote.
The last time the rule was used appears to be in 2009 by then-City Councilman Tony Avella, who clashed regularly with Quinn. People do not generally want to alienate the speaker.
Quinn said in a statement that she believes taxi service should be accessible to all, but her remarks make it clear she is not willing to go as far as Koppell.
"I have one more year to go and I want certain things to happen in New York City as a result of my being a representative," said Koppell.
The Bronx councilman now needs to see whether the bill's supporters are willing to mount this challenge along with him.