Great moments in governance

The New York State Legislature, labeled by one analytical body as the most dysfunctional such bureaucracy in the nation, rarely acts swiftly to do more than cover its own collective butt, or swath it in more privilege.

But every now and then something so pressing, so important to the public good, so full of historic import comes along that the Legislature does act quickly and in concert.

Take the extremely pressing matter of keeping wine ice cream from being treated as a true alcoholic product. Both houses of the Legislature acted quickly and with virtually no debate to approve a bill allowing up to 5% alcohol by volume in wine ice cream, although makers and vendors will be allowed only to sell it to people 21 and over and must put warning statements on labels and menus.

William Magee (above right), D-Oneida, chairman of the Assembly Agriculture Committee, said in the sponsor's memo:

"There is no doubt that New York agriculture is steamrolling ahead with the creation, production and marketing of splendid and scrumptious new agrigoodies."

The Legislature also approved legislation to permit tastings at wineries starting from 10 a.m. to midnight on Sunday. Present rules prohibit sampling before noon, although sales are alowed from 10 a.m.In the sponsor's memo for that bill, Magee said:

"The current law makes no sense because it forces someone to buy an untried product which often, due to the limited production and limited marketing opportunities, cannot be sampled elsewhere because the wine may be only available through the winery itself."

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