* This article first appeared in The
Times Herald-Record on March 06, 2001. Used by permission.
Lawmakers Improve Attendance in 2000
By Christopher Mele
The Times Herald-Record
The year 2000 turned out to be a good year for turnout among Orange County lawmakers. Legislators improved their attendance performance by 1 percentage point, raising their average rate to 95 percent.
Or put another way, lawmakers were absent from legislative and committee meetings only 5 percent of the time last year.
Of the 21 lawmakers, 10 improved their scores from 1999, six remained the same and four dropped. Rates for Legislature Chairman Richard Hansen, who is an ex-officio member of the committees, were not included.
Committee meetings are important because that's where the nitty-gritty of pending resolutions get hashed out. Lawmakers also hear from department staffers about issues affecting the county. "I tell them it's important that when they get ready to vote on something to know what's going on,'' said Hansen. "I'm pretty proud of the whole group."
The attendance rates provide an informal measure of a lawmaker's commitment to the job and offer an indication of how well a district is represented.
All 21 seats are up for re-election in November, although three incumbents are not seeking re-election. Another, Edward Diana, R-Goshen, is running for county executive.
Lawmakers are paid $18,000 a year. In 1997, they abolished the $6-a-meeting stipend they could collect.
Topping out the list with perfect scores last year were Legislators Patrick Berardinelli Sr., R-Newburgh; Jeffrey Berkman, D-Middletown; and Harvey Burger, D-Newburgh.
Legislator George A. Green, R-New Windsor, broke a two-year run of perfect attendance, scoring 98 percent last year. Still, he said he organizes his work schedule around his county duties.
"I truly feel it's your obligation to be there,'' he said. "You asked for the job, you ran for the job."