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.
This article has been updated.
Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver’s press office just released a statement on behalf of Assemblyman Jack McEneny, the Albany-based Democrat representing the Assembly’s Democratic majority in the state’s redistricting process. The statement, according to McEneny, is in response to the criticism being levied against the reported language of a constitutional amendment that appeared this morning in the Albany Times-Union. The amendment would be part of a compromise that would allow the Governor to sign a second, supposedly improved set of district lines for the state senate and assembly.
The statement appears to put daylight between what Assemblyman McEneny described in the TU article, and some of the push back coming from Senate Democrats, in particular Senator Michael Gianaris, who was the co-sponsor of a bill last year to establish an independent redistricting process in 2012:
While we share a common goal of permanently reforming New York’s redistricting process, the constitutional amendment currently being discussed by the Assembly is stronger than the Senate Minority’s proposal in several key respects. Future redistricting plans will be subjected to tough standards not contained in the plan put forth by the Senate Minority and, as well, the amendment would be accompanied by a statute implementing those changes.
According to the statement, in the event the plan drawn by the future “independent commission” was rejected by the legislature, lawmakers would “be limited to those that affect no more than two percent of the population of the district being altered, making it much harder to modify the commission’s proposals.”
The statement goes on to say the Assembly proposal would “provide crucial protections for language and for racial minorities,” as well as require a justification for district population deviations, and give greater restriction to political activities for the commission members.
The statement comes after a day of push back from lawmakers and good government activists incensed over the details of a possible constitutional amendment on redistricting.
Common Cause held a conference call earlier to discuss the status of both congressional and state redistricting efforts. The group’s executive director Susan Lerner addressed the constitutional amendment issue.
“We would just like to say we have consistently been calling for an open discussion about what should be in any constitutional amendment,” she said, according to City and State’s Laura Nahmias. “We think quite frankly it would be a scandal if massive changes to the redistricting process were introduced under cover of darkness.”
Democratic state Senator Liz Krueger issued her own statement on the state of the process saying, “The reports I have heard of a deal on a constitutional amendment make two things clear: the proposed amendment is too weak to work, and New York's voters would have to accept ten more years of hyperpartisan, racially discriminatory maps to get this too-little, too-late reform.”
And earlier today, Democratic state Senator Michael Gianaris told the Empire, “The entire point about the constitutional amendment is that we could change [the ability of the legislature to have the final say over the lines]. So to actually enshrine in the constitution that the legislature would have the final say would be regress.”