Friday, January 27, 2012

Primary Date, Redistricting, Budgets and Reproductive Choice: A Busy Week

Breaking Good News
Federal Judge Gary Sharpe has just issued (Friday afternoon) a decision on the non-Presidential federal primary date for New York State.  Judge Sharpe has set June 26, 2012, as the date for the Congressional primary. This is a victory for both the Election Commissioners’ Association and good government groups, including the League. As you may know, the League has had a position on a June primary dating back to 1957.  The federal court was asked to change New York primary date to satisfy the 2009 federal MOVE Act, requiring states to get ballots to overseas military voters at least 45 days before the federal election since the state legislature had not changed the primary date to comply with the federal law. This is also a victory for the voters of NYS; however, if the legislature remains recalcitrant in leaving the state primary election in September, this could set up a three primary election season that would be expensive for local municipalities who administer the elections. It is estimated that it could cost up to $50 million more statewide.

This week was redistricting week in Albany.  We were originally anticipating that these lines would appear on Monday.  And then possibly Tuesday, by Wednesday at 5pm, individual Assembly members were sent by email their own individual district lines.  On Thursday, the much anticipated state maps appeared on the LATFOR website.  The Capitol immediately went into frenzy form.  The Capitol lobby was set up as an impromptu local television studio where I was able to spontaneously give five television commentaries for all the local television stations.  The blogs were going fast and furious with comments from good government groups, including the LEAGUE and individual legislators, particularly in the Senate where opposition to these lines was ferocious. It became apparent as the afternoon went on as analysis of the lines began to come in, especially from our good government colleague Bill Mahoney, of NYPIRG, who discovered that these could be the most gerrymandered lines, particularly in the Senate, in decades.  The Governor late in the day issued a statement essentially declaring these lines unacceptable and again, issued the threat of a veto.  Public hearings on these proposed state legislative lines will begin on Monday, January 30th in Albany.  The League will testify at the hearing in Albany and will continue to critique the flawed process by which theses lines were drawn.  We will continue to call for structural reform to guarantee that these types of partisan lines drawn to maintain incumbency by reducing both competitive elections and legislative responsiveness.  We anticipate following the public hearing that some of the more egregious lines may be sent to LATFOR for readjustment. Stayed tune for updates on the process as it moves forward.

Budget Hearing
Also this week in Albany, the League testified at the Joint Education and Finance Committees. That testimony can be seen on the League website.  The League is also submitting testimony to the transportation committee.

Reproductive Choice
Also, this week a legislative resolution marking the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade was introduced. This resolution went through the health committee in the Assembly with a League memo of support and moved to the floor of the Assembly where it is usually a non controversial voice vote. However, this year the Assembly Republicans made an effort to be loudly in opposition by screaming “NO.”  They were certainly drowned out by the “YES” votes.  However, given the anti-choice sentiment during a presidential election year this must be looked at as concerning. The Republican controlled State Senate refused to issue a similar legislative resolution marking the anniversary.

Next week will bring more redistricting, more budgeting, and the unexpected which can always happen in Albany.  Stay tuned…

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