Colby Hamilton, Writer, WNYC News
Colby Hamilton is a general assignment reporter. He originally joined WNYC as a political blogger. He's a proud graduate of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.
The Times-Union's Casey Seiler has a piece up today about the emerging details of a possible deal between Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state legislature for a constitutional amendment to change the state's redistricting process.
"A possible constitutional change to New York’s redistricting process would create a 10-member independent panel to draw the state’s political lines beginning in 2021, but would allow the Legislature to make final tweaks to the plan if the Assembly and Senate fail to pass it after two tries," Seiler writes.
Earlier this week we broke down the battle brewing over how to amend the state's constitution to get independent redistricting in New York. The debate comes down to how much the legislature remains in the process. According to Seiler's piece, the plan being discussed between Assembly Democrats, Senate Republicans and Governor Cuomo would look pretty similar to the Plan A we identified on Wednesday:
The deal being discussed would create a panel made up of eight members appointed by the legislative conferences: two appointees apiece from the majority and minority in each chamber. The eight would then independently select two additional members. Those eligible would have to be out of government service for three years before their appointment, and appointments would have to be made two years before map-drawing could actually begin.
Back in January we ran down what, based on past independent redistricting bills, a constitutional amendment could look like. It turns out this isn't too far off from the process Cuomo and legislators were proposing a year ago as legislation to make the current process more independent.
But now one of the sponsors of the bills from last year, Democratic Senator Michael Gianaris from Queens, is vocally criticizing an amendment that would codify the legislatures influence in a new redistricting amendment.
"I have trouble believing what I read in the paper [about the proposed amendment language] would pass the straight-face test," Gianaris said in a phone interview this morning. "You can be sure that the senate Democrats are firmly in support of truly independent and fair redistricting. What was proposed yesterday would be a disaster."
Gianaris appears to be in the Plan B camp we identified earlier this week, which would like to see the legislature cut out of future redistricting process. The plan details floated in a series of op-eds and statements would look more like the process California now uses. Professor Gerald Benjamin of SUNY New Paltz distilled the details in his op-ed in the Times-Union last weekend:
A constitutional amendment must provide for an independent commission with an odd number of members (5 to 13) appointed by a diversity of authorities exclusively from a pool of interested citizens. Lobbyists, elected officials and those directly or indirectly dependent upon them for employment could not serve. Members would reflect the political and demographic diversity of the state.
They would have a clear timetable and employ clear criteria, including in order of priority: compliance with federal requirements, observance of the integrity of the state’s regions — defined by its natural and built environment — and recognition within regions of social and demographic communities of interest.
Use of data reflecting partisanship or incumbent residency in designing districts would be prohibited. Finally, the Commission’s decisions would not be subject to revision by the Legislature.