The League along with our good government colleagues have formed a new coalition to pass independent non-partisan redistricting in the state of New York. This coalition called ReShape NY was announced yesterday at two News Conferences held simultaneously in NYC and in Albany. Attending at the Albany News Conference were two of the nine Co-Chairs, The Daily Beast and CNN contributor John Avlon, Associate Vice President for Regional Engagement at SUNY New Paltz Gerald Benjamin. Also attending were many legislators from both houses and both parties. For more information on this new coalition go visit the state League’s website. The other notable event yesterday along with the announcement of this new coalition was the lightening speed at which the Senate Republicans introduced a constitutional amendment on redistricting. This legislation (S.3331) went through the Senate Judiciary Committee at 1:30 in the afternoon and by 5:00 p.m. had passed through Rules and onto the floor where it was debated and passed by a vote of 35-24. This legislation was OPPOSED by the League, Citizen Union of the City of New York, Common Cause, and NYPIRG, because it cannot address the current redistricting process and has a number of other serious flaws that are detailed in the group’s memo in opposition.
Constitutional Amendments must pass 2 consecutively elected legislatures, before it goes on the ballot for approval by the voters. Since current redistricting must be done by May 2012, this amendment would have no effect on the current redistricting process since it will not kick into 2022. This Constitutional Amendment ploy is being seen by the good government groups and several legislators as a dodge to keep the current status quo. Governor Cuomo’s legislation on Redistricting currently is being sponsored by Speaker Silver in the Assembly (A.5388), where no action has been taken. In the Senate it is sitting in the Rules Committee w/no sponsorship, meaning it is controlled by the Majority Leaders office and Mr. Skelos has said that he intends no further action in redistricting in this legislative session. All four members of the independent democratic caucus, surprisingly, voted with the Republicans to pass this bogus Constitutional Amendment. One of the members of this caucus is Senator David Valesky (D/I/WF-Cayuga, Madison, Oneida, Onondaga) is the sponsor of a comprehensive and coalition supported legislation on independent non-partisan redistricting. GO FIGURE! Senator Diane Savino (D/I/WF-Kings, Richmond) participated in our Coalition Press Conference at 12:30 p.m., yet voted with the Majority in the Senate on this Constitutional Amendment. AGAIN, GO FIGURE!
Today begins the budget debate in earnest. Both the assembly and Senate are scheduled to debate their one house budget bill later this afternoon followed immediately by a general conference committee meeting early in the evening. These joint conference committees will then do their work over the next several days with final action on the Governor’s Executive Budget and the Legislative Budgets finalizing the budget by the end of the fiscal year, March 31st. Both legislative leaders and the Governor have said that the budget will be on time. We will see.
As covered by every newspaper in the State, Senator Carl Kruger (D-Kings) and Assemblymember William Boyland (D/WF-Kings) were indicted on Federal Corruption charges late last week. Immediately Senator Kruger was stripped of his ranking seat on the Senate Finance Committee and no Monday his seat in the Chamber was moved to the very last row, last seat in the Chamber—a very long way he has fallen. This, just again, for the fifteenth time, points out the need for comprehensive ethics reform. The charges again Senator Kruger highlight the fact that because he was a powerful Senate on the finance Committees he used his office to enrich himself personally. This certainly points to better disclosure laws concerning elected officials and a strong independent entity to enforce new stricter standards for our elected officials.
Once the state budget is resolved, we anticipate that there will be ethics reform legislation.
Stay tuned for more.