Common Sense: Fair Redistricting

October 6, 2014 JERRY KASSAR
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In addition to candidates for public office ranging from governor to state assemblymember, this year’s ballot will contain two proposals and one bond act to be voted on by the public.

For the next three weeks, I would like briefly to discuss an individual one. Proposal Number One deals with the manner in which the state reapportions its legislature every 10 years as a result of the Census.

I might add that I was the staff director in charge for the Assembly Republican Conference during the 1990 reapportionment and played a senior staff role on behalf of the Assembly Republicans during the 2000 reapportionment. It does not make me an expert, but I think I have a good sense of a lot of what is wrong with the way our state has done reapportionment in the past.

The proposal establishes a commission directly and indirectly appointed by the legislature. In that sense, it really is not independent of the legislature and the court that revised the ballot wording removing the words independent was correct. Nevertheless, the proposal is a good one and an important step in creating a fairer statewide reapportionment.

The proposal has a general outline of criteria that are considered a basis for a fair reapportionment. Certain longstanding state rules are modified, eliminated or clarified, which should result in legislative districts that are closer in size from largest to smallest, and give more weight to communities of interest. This will be an major improvement in equalizing the value of a vote from one seat to another and result in fewer communities in the state being split.

The final vote on passage still goes to the legislature, with the requirement that the likely final vote (which is on the second amended version of the bill) pass by no less than a 60 percent margin. This will give the minority parties a say. And if they fail to agree, it will go to a court for drawing, which is going “nuclear” in the reapportionment world of government, and something the legislature will not want to happen.

The last Congressional reapportionment for New York State went “nuclear,” with the court coming up with lines that were universally criticized.

Thus, there is a greater likelihood then in the past that we will have an agreement that everyone can live with and by its nature a better reapportionment then we have had in the past.

Most good government groups as well as the Conservative Party have issued statements in support of Proposal Number One. Senator Marty Golden (whom I serve as chief of staff), Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis and I believe all our local legislators voted in favor of placing this proposal on the ballot.

Next week, I will discuss the Paper Reduction Act which Assemblymember Malliotakis played a major role in moving in Albany. And the following week, I will discuss the Technology Bond Act.

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Governor Cuomo last week announced that he is postponing the naming of a new State Court of Appeals judge because it is too close to the election. He had weeks to do it, but now it is too close, he says.

Look at this as nothing more than a political ploy to benefit him as he hints that he could reappointment the highly qualified Judge Vicki Graffeo who is a Republican.

For years, Governor Cuomo has not been able to make a decision on fracking. Now, it is too close to the election. Will he ever make a decision?  Probably not as long as it could be bad politics to do such.

These are just two examples of what is becoming more and more familiar to Albany watchers, “a governor who postpones important decisions due to overriding political considerations.” I am certainly not naïve to this being the way it is done, but these are important decisions that reflect on leadership. Delays reflect poorly.

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