State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Democrat and 34-year veteran of the Assembly who has held the most pivotal role in New York's legislature since 1994, effectively sealed the sport's fate with a single sentence.
"There does not appear to be widespread support in the Assembly for this legislation," Silver said on Tuesday, according to The New York Daily News.
To say the least, his words come as a curious statement just days after the bill to regulate the sport had easily sailed through the Assembly's Tourism, Parks, Arts and Sports Development committee by a 16-3 vote. The bill had already been passed through the state senate as well, in a 42-18 vote.
But Silver has the power to effectively do just the opposite of those votes: stop the MMA bill dead in its tracks.
As MMA Fighting reported last year, Silver is considered the most powerful man in the state capital, a title agreed upon by both The New York Times and The New York Post. Due to the overwhelmingly Democratic-controlled Assembly, Silver has huge sway over what bills get introduced for a full vote, and which stall out before ever reaching that point. He has the power to greenlight a bill through traffic, and create gridlock where there is none. Dr. Douglas Muzzio, a professor at New York's Baruch College and longtime political analyst, told MMA Fighting last October that "nothing happens legislatively in the New York State Assembly" without Silver's OK. By virtue of his statement about MMA, it nearly guarantees the bill won't see the Assembly floor for a full vote.
Clearly, there is a fair amount of support for the bill by virtue of the votes that passed it through the senate as well as Assembly committees, not only in 2011, but in years past. But until and unless Silver allows it to be brought to the floor for a full vote, MMA sanctioning in New York will continue to tempt us with promise before ultimately failing.
Past repeated attempts to get Silver to publicly comment on his personal position on MMA have been met with resistance, with his spokespeople saying he does not comment on bills before they're in the voting process. Yet seeing as the bills have passed through some important committees, it would seem as though Silver would allow it a chance to pass or fail in the Assembly on its own merits. But that is not how politics work in 2011, at least not in New York, and not on his watch.
At least we're not the only ones left shaking our heads. Even some of his fellow Democrats don't quite understand what's going on, including Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi, who according to The Daily News, said it's "illogical and irrational" that New York would ignore the potential revenue generated by MMA during a time of financial crisis. Upon sanctioning, MMA's leading promotion the UFC had promised New York two events within the first calendar year that would generate around $16 million in economic activity. Apparently, that's not nearly enough.
The bad news gets worse, folks. Silver was just re-elected last November, so next year, we get to do it all over again.