Andrew Cuomo got most of what he came to Albany to accomplish already–a balanced budget that doesn’t raise taxes, an ethics bill, same-sex marriage. But one agenda item remains outstanding–a nonpartisan redistricting commission that would take away lawmakers’ ability to draw their own districts.
With that push stalled (and with the Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment, which is tasked with drawing the new lines, set to meet today) former Mayor Ed Koch and Citizens Union head Dick Dadey are out with a statement today calling on the
governor legislature to call a special session to deal with the issue.
“We urge the New York State Legislature to return to the State Capitol this month to meet in a special session and pass legislation creating an independent redistricting commission to draw the new lines for the 2012 election cycle,” they write. “It is an affront to all those New Yorkers who trusted that their elected officials would arrive in Albany this year and end the practice of partisan gerrymandering as they had promised, and enact redistricting reform legislation. We and they are still waiting.”
Koch made redistricting reform a centerpiece of his New York Uprising push last year, and Gov. Cuomo has pledged that he would veto any plan that doesn’t include a nonpartisan redistricting commission.
But redistricting reform wasn’t include in any of the package deals that brought the session to a close, and some wonder how much stomach the governor has for another major fight–or even how much legislators, despite their pledges to Mayor Koch, really want to give up one of their most powerful tools.
Full letter below:
ED KOCH and DICK DADEY,
OF NEW YORK UPRISING and CITIZENS UNION
LEGISLATURE SHOULD RETURN FOR SPECIAL SESSION
TO PASS REDISTRICTING REFORM
GRADE of “I” FOR “INCOMPLETE”
NEEDS TO BE REMOVED
IF NOT, LATFOR-DRAWN LINES
WILL BE VETOED BY GOVERNOR
On the day the Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment (LATFOR) holds in Albany its first public meeting, we urge the New York State Legislature to return to the State Capitol this month to meet in a special session and pass legislation creating an independent redistricting commission to draw the new lines for the 2012 election cycle. Barring the establishment of a new independent commission, the legislature-drawn lines will no doubt be vetoed by Governor Cuomo, who has pledged to do so.
Had the state legislature done what 184 of its 212 members pledged or co-sponsored to do – create a new impartial process for drawing state legislative and congressional lines – this meeting today of LATFOR would not have been necessary. It is an affront to all those New Yorkers who trusted that their elected officials would arrive in Albany this year and end the practice of partisan gerrymandering as they had promised, and enact redistricting reform legislation. We and they are still waiting.
A total of 96 members of the Assembly, both Democrats and Republicans, have co-sponsored legislation introduced by Governor Andrew Cuomo and Speaker Sheldon Silver creating a new and more independent process. Prevented from signing onto Governor Cuomo’s legislation in the Senate because of the use of an arcane rule, 27 State Senators have indicated their support for two pieces of redistricting reform legislation carried by Senators Mike Gianaris D-Queens or David Valesky, D-Oneida. An additional 31 other Senators said they support redistricting reform during the 2010 campaign but have not cosponsored enacting legislation for 2012.
The rearing of LATFOR’s public head today represents a continuation of the old-school partisan gerrymandering that has existed for over three decades and prioritizes the re-election of incumbents above all else in drawing new districts. This rigged practice has resulted in a 96% re-election rate among incumbents that has divided communities, underrepresented minority groups in the legislature and resulted in few truly competitive elections.
We request legislators honor the commitments they made to their voters and return to Albany pronto to remove the self-interested conflict that exists when they draw the lines for themselves and essentially choose their voters before the voters choose them.
Though it was one of the most productive legislative sessions in recent memory, the legislature so far deserves only a grade of “I” for “Incomplete” which can be improved if they return and enact redistricting reform as they had promised New Yorkers they would