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Heimbach v. State of New York
New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division
454 N.Y.S.2d 993 (1982)
For a bill to pass in the New York senate, it had to receive 31 votes. The senate adopted procedures that allowed for two types of roll calls. Through the fast roll-call process, a senator had to be present to vote no on a bill. If a senator checked into the senate chamber and left the chamber before a vote, he would be considered present in fact for the day and would be marked as voting yes on the bill. If a senator was marked as present in fact, he had to request to be excused to be considered absent for a vote. Through the slow roll-call process, all members had to be present in the chamber to vote yes or no. In 1981 the senate voted on Senate Bill 1905 (SB 1905), which increased the state sales and use taxes. A fast roll call was used, and 31 senators voted yes. Among the yes votes was Senator Howard Nolan. On July 8, Nolan checked into the senate chamber and was marked present in fact. Nolan left the senate without asking to be excused and went to a hospital to prepare for elective surgery. In the early morning hours of July 9, a fast roll call was taken on SB 1905, and Nolan was marked as a yes vote. Louis Heimbach (plaintiff) filed a lawsuit in state court against the state government (defendant) alleging that the fast roll-call process violated the state constitution. Nolan filed an affidavit stating that he would have voted no on SB 1905 had he been present. Nolan alleged that he called Senator Manfred Ohrenstein on the night of July 8 and asked to be excused from the vote. Ohrenstein testified that Nolan did not make this request. The New York Supreme Court held that, on the facts of the case, the fast roll-call process violated the state constitution. The state government appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Per curiam)
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