Cuomo’s Veto of Swan Bill Allows Swans to Be Killed and Crippled in New York

By Peter Muller, former director, the League of Humane Voters/NYS

Gov. Cuomo has made it clear that his close connection to the Bureau of Wildlife (BOW) (aka DEC) takes precedence over the will of the public and the New York State Legislature.

His cronyism with the bureau that is beholden to hunters and survives on firearms money was the root of his veto of the common popular, common sense “Swan Bill,” which merely called for a two-year moratorium on the killing of mute swans in New York State so that unbiased experts and the public could weigh in on the BOW’s annihilation plans for this beloved bird.

Basically, Gov. Cuomo has placed the regulatory process above legislative control. This is another lesser known way in which binding and enforceable “rules” can come about: through regulation promulgated by state agencies. These rules have the force of laws but were never voted on by an elected legislature. Normally, the rules are considered necessary by “experts” working for state agencies in an area such as environmental protection or consumer protection.

We should become aware that this way of “fast-tracking” rules has dangers associated with it. Legislators were elected by the public and can be voted out of office if they fail to serve the public’s interest. Regulators are appointed to positions or are employees without the assent of the voters affected by their decisions. It has become customary in both federal and state appointments to appoint “experts” from within the areas they are to regulate. Since those “experts” are steeped in the cultures and ways of the regulated enterprises, it is common, not surprisingly, for those “experts” to promulgate and enforce regulations which reflect the de facto culture and practices of these very entities that are supposed to be regulated. This obviously results in the fox guarding the chicken coop.

Just looking at this scheme to promulgate laws, without the involvement of any elected officials, by appointees largely from the field that is be regulated, should raise series doubts about the wisdom of such an arrangement.

The specific case that in our view illustrates the danger of regulatory abuse is the New York State’s Bureau of Wildlife’s promulgation of a plan to kill or cripple ALL mute swans in the state of New York.

The BOW’s original proposal cited the view of some “in-house experts” that mute swans are damaging to the environment. That opinion was challenged with rational criticism by academic and NGO experts outside of BOW.

The evidence and arguments presented by the scientific community were so compelling that the state legislature stepped in and, in 2014, passed legislation requiring a moratorium and an objective scientific assessment of BOW’s proposal by an overwhelming majority.

The governor then vetoed the 2014 will of the legislature.

In 2015, the legislature again passed a law halting BOW’s grotesque proposal to kill or cripple all the mute swans in the state, again by an overwhelming majority.

The people of New York have spoken, unambiguously, through their elected legislators. The people of the State of New York do not want the mute swans in the state killed or crippled.

The governor has again vetoed the bill against the express demands of the voters of the State of New York and their elected lawmakers.

Have we surrendered lawmaking to special interests who, in collusion with a governor, can pass de facto laws at their pleasure?

We, the voters, have to take back the lawmaking function of our government and not allow our wild animals to be destroyed. We need to bring the regulatory process under the control of the legislatures.



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