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63Rd Senate Seat

The Empire

State's Highest Court OK's 63-Seat State Senate

Thursday, May 03, 2012

In a unanimous decision, New York State's highest court on Thursday upheld Senate Republicans’ plans for a 63-seat chamber, removing one of the last remaining hurdles to the redistricting deal struck by state legislators and Governor Andrew Cuomo.

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The Empire

State Judge OK's 63rd Senate Seat

Friday, April 13, 2012

In a major blow to Senate Democrats' efforts to halt the implementation of new Republican-drawn districts, a state supreme court judge ruled the Senate majority's decision to up the seat total to 63 was constitutionally acceptable.

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The Empire

State court on 63-seat senate proposal: we can't get involved yet--updated

Friday, March 09, 2012

State Supreme Court Judge Richard Braun agreed to dismiss a lawsuit over Senate Republicans' proposed 63-seat redistricting maps, saying the proposed lines are just that, a proposal, and thus wasn't subject to a constitutional review.

"The controversy in this action/proceeding is simply not ripe for the court's review," Braun wrote in his decision. "At this point, a 63-seat State Senate is merely a recommendation...that may not be enacted by the Legislature or signed into law by the Governor, and thus the matter is not justiciable."

Senate Democrats, who were behind the lawsuit, say the decision today doesn't mean the issue is settled.

"The Judge made it clear that this is simply a procedural move related to timing and if Republicans try to pass their unconstitutional lines containing a 63rd Senate District the Court will be ready to step in," Senate Democratic spokesman Michael Murphy said in a statement.

Senate Republicans haven't released a statement yet but if and when they do we'll update.

Senate Republican spokesperson Scott Reif sent this response: "The size of the Senate is dictated by a formula in the State Constitution, and that formula requires us to add a 63rd seat.  We are pleased with this ruling and continue to believe that our plan is legally and constitutionally sound."

Cohen - MTD Order and Opinion

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The Empire

Republican Senate candidate Maragos gets spot on primary ballot

Thursday, March 08, 2012

By Karen DeWitt, New York State Public Radio Capital Bureau Chief

George Maragos, the front running Republican to challenge US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand admits he faces an “uphill battle," but the former banker and current Nassau County Comptroller says he’ll spend up to $5 million dollars of his own money to compete.

Maragos has secured 25 percent of the party's delegates support to guarantee a spot on the Republican primary ballot for the Senate seat. He says he expects more endorsements from county leaders in the coming days before the GOP convention March 16. Maragos is anti-abortion and personally against same-sex marriage, though he says he respects New York’s marriage law. But he says he’d rather focus on improving the economy, and that too much attention has been paid to social issues in the GOP Presidential campaign lately.

“The crises that we’re facing in our country are not the social issues, they’re the economic issues,” said Maragos. “We’re losing sight of that.”

Maragos says he needs $15 million dollars to run a credible campaign, and is willing to spend several million of his own fortune to do it. He’s facing potential primary challenges from Rye Town Supervisor Joe Carvin and New York City Attorney Wendy Long.

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The Empire

The three most important pieces of New York's ongoing redistricting saga

Monday, March 05, 2012

Federal magistrate judge Roanne Mann is bringing together the sides with skin in the redistricting game today at a hearing to review legislative and community activist proposals for how the state’s 27 congressional districts could be drawn.

The hearing comes as state lawmakers and Governor Andrew Cuomo are reportedly in the midst of trying to hammer out a deal that would see better lines for the Governor to pass alongside a constitutional amendment to change the redistricting process going forward.
But as Jimmy Vielkind of the Albany Times-Union reports, the process is far from finalized:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who denounced LATFOR's first draft of lines as "hyper-political," is wielding the threat of a gubernatorial veto to make lawmakers agree to a new law and changes to the State Constitution that would rip the map-making pen from legislators themselves.

Assembly Democrats outlined a draft package of possible changes last week, the Times Union reported Thursday, but the new system still allows for final revisions by legislators — something that has left some good-government advocates uneasy.

A Cuomo administration source said Sunday that there was no overall agreement, and as such, "if they are drafting now then they are drafting for a veto."

Even as the redistricting morass continues, three distinct pieces of the overall puzzle should be watched closely:

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The Empire

Are early redistricting lawsuits too early?

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

From left, Assemb. Jack McEneny, Sen. Michael Nozzolio and Sen. Martin Malavé Dilan (Colby Hamilton / WNYC)

Earlier on Tuesday, Democratic State Senator Martin Malavé Dilan filed a lawsuit in state court challenging the constitutionality of Senate Republicans’ plans to create a new district in the Albany area. The plan would bring the State Senate’s total size up from 62 to 63 seats.

“The lawsuit is being filed because the majority in the New York State Senate failed to follow the constitution of the State of New York, Section 4, which…if you follow the formula strictly it would only result in 62 seats,” Dilan said before the Bronx LATFOR hearing on Tuesday. “This time around they decided needed a 63rd seat; perhaps to continue control of the New York State Senate.”

Dilan’s suit is just another salvo in a pre-emptive strike campaign by opponents of the LATFOR process. As the turbulent process moves into its final stages, these lawsuits become pieces on the board as stakeholders—legislators, non-government groups, the Governor and communities throughout New York—prepare for the redistricting end game.

The lawsuit a ruling that “they”—that is, Senate Republicans—didn’t follow their own, court-approved process for figuring out the number of Senate seats. He said the ruling could happen as soon as a week.] For an explanation of how they got to 63 seats--and why Democrats think they're wrong--check out my earlier piece.]

Dilan’s counterpart on LATFOR, Republican Senator Michael Nozzolio, said before the meeting that he had faith that their attorneys had divined the number of senate seats correctly and that the court would agree.

“The constitution of the state of New York will decide this. Not Senator Dilan. Not Senator Nozzolio. Not the Senate entirely,” Nozzolio said. “We certainly believe the analysis done by the attorneys is accurate. We believe the court will ultimately confirm that.”

The Lawsuits

As mentioned, the complaint filed by Senator Dilan in state court is asking a judge to find the Republicans “failed to apply the Senate size formula prescribed in Section 4 consistently, rationally or in good faith.”

The question facing whichever judge hears the case is whether or not the case is “ripe”—that is, if the issue in the case is fully formed enough to decide. What will likely come down to in this case is whether or not the Senate declaring its intent to create the district is enough.

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The Empire

The 63rd Senate District: Location details leak, but more questions pop up

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Jimmy Vielkind used Common Cause's map making software to come up with a version of the new district. (Jimmy Vielkind / Times Union)

Ever since the rumor that the Senate Republican planned to create a new, 63rd Senate district in in the soon-to-be-released redistricting maps, there have been new rumors flying about where it could be. At least one of those rumors appears to be true: Times-Union’s Jimmy Vielkind reported today that sources tell him the district will be located in the Capital Region, stretching from west to south of Albany (see picture insert). The district is likely created to help Republican Assemblyman George Amedore get elected to the Senate, helping the Republicans keep their majority.

The news, if it holds up (and there’s good reason to believe this is what we’ll see when maps likely become available either late today or tomorrow), raises three important issues.

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The Empire

Senate memo for 63rd seat doesn't calculate prisoner shift

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

At least that's what Todd Breitbart, the leading technical voice blasting Senate Republicans, appears to have figured out.

According to his analysis, the Republicans' Washington DC-based lawyer Michael Carvin used the data set released back in March:

The population counts shown in his table, "2010 Senate Size Calculation," are from the Census Bureau's March 2010 redistricting data release (the PL94-171 data). These counts - the state total, the 'ratio of apportionment,' the county totals and the figures for the parts of the Bronx - reflect neither the subtraction of the prison populations nor the reallocation of prisoners to their prior home addresses.

Now, this shouldn't be surprising: only at yesterday's LATFOR meeting was the prisoner reallocation issue--though agreed to in principle last month--officially accepted.

Breitbart's point--and I'm sure we'll see this increasingly from Senate Democrats--is that the Senate Republican argument that the method used to get to 62 seats in 2002 is the exact same used to get to 63 in 2012 is called into question. If that were the case, why wait until January 2012 when you could have done the work back in March and settled the issue then?

The assumption that's fueling Senate Ds' criticism is that the math to get to 63 wasn't settled back in March, just the desire to do so.

I'll try and follow up with Senator Nozzolio today to check on this, as well as their lawyer Michael Carvin.

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The Empire

The Senate GOP's extra seat: hidden method or manipulation?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Assemblyman McEneny, left, and Senator Nozzolio, right (Courtesy of the LATFOR Committee.)

Late in the workday last Friday the long-anticipated LATFOR bomb dropped. There was no press release or announcement. Instead, a word or two were changed on the committees website and a new link to a document were all that indicated that the size of the New York State Senate would increase from 62 to 63 seats next year.

The move has been bashed by Senate Democrats (the Governor and Assemblymembers have been tellingly silent) and good government groups since it was noticed after 5 pm on Friday. They argue its a purely political attempt for the Senate Republicans to manufacture and maintain their majority. Senate Republicans are defending the decision as constitutional.

How the GOP can justify a new seat requires a bit of state constitutional knowledge. Unlike the Assembly, which has its number firmly set at 150, the Senate’s number is dictated by a formula that allows it to grow alongside the state’s population. (Jimmy Vielkind of the Times Union has a detailed breakdown of the math behind the change.)

At least that’s the idea. The problem really lies in the fact that the formula was decided upon and made law before a pretty big development occurred for New York: the incorporation of the City of New York in 1898. The Senate’s formula didn’t take into account the dividing of Queens County into the borough and Nassau County, nor the creation of the Bronx as its own county in 1914. Likewise Staten Island and Suffolk County were grouped into one Senate district.

This is the crux of why there’s even a debate over how many seats there are in the Senate. From 1972 to 1992, there was one agreed upon interpretation of how to apply the formula, per a ruling by the state’s highest court. The reason Senate Democrats are so angry over the 63rd seat announcement is because they believe Republicans are, again, changing how they want to count the counties that have morphed since 1894.

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