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New York State Redistricting

The Empire

Details emerge on possible redistricting amendment

Friday, March 02, 2012

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.

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The Empire

Public battle begins over redistricting constitutional amendment

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The redistricting conversation has been focused lately on the incremental issues of the now: Cuomo’s increasingly pale veto statements, a federal court pushing forward with their own congressional maps, the state legislature failing to meet its own deadline for new maps.

But there’s also a battle of ideas happening over what a constitutional amendment—something Cuomo and others say could be part of a compromise in the current process—giving future redistricting over to  an independent process. But are all processes created equal?

The Skinning of a Redistricting Cat

Back in September we looked at what independent redistricting could look like in New York State, based on models in other states and conversations with democracy advocates. Lately there has been an op-ed back-and-forth going on between two different visions of what “an independent process” really means.

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The Empire

'The Capitol Pressroom' with Susan Arbetter

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Today on "The Capitol Pressroom":

How will Magistrate Judge Roanne Mann go about creating the Congressional maps that Albany lawmakers failed to agree on by March 12th? What criteria should inform her decision-making? Will she work from previous maps, or start from scratch? To what extent will incumbency be a factor? Common Cause Executive Director Susan Lerner has some thoughts on the subject.

New York Gaming Association President James Featherstonhaugh on enhanced casino gambling.

Keith Pickett, the Executive Director of the Center for Problem Gambling on enhanced casino gambling and its relationship to problem gambling.

Former Special Counsel to Governor David Paterson, Peter Kiernan shares a look back at some of the political calculations made at the very beginning of the hydrofracking debate in New York State. Kiernan is participating in today’s ‘standing-room only’ Warren Anderson Breakfast conversation on the issue in the Capitol’s Assembly Parlor from 8am – 9am.

And Marina Marcou-O'Malley, Policy Analyst for Alliance for Quality Education and Karen Scharff, Executive Director of Citizen Action of New York, join us with yet another reason why pre-k education should be fully funded.

For show archives, please visit The Capitol Bureau's website here.

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The Empire

Federal judges move to draw NY congressional maps

Monday, February 27, 2012

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

In Brooklyn federal district court today a three-judge panel took a decisive step towards having new congressional lines drawn by an appointed magistrate judge, and not by the legislatively-controlled LATFOR committee.

Led by Circuit Judge Reena Raggi, who spoke almost exclusively for the triumvirate, the panel cited the "utmost urgency" of having congressional lines in place for the primary petitioning period that begins on March 20. The panel of judges instructed a court-appointed federal magistrate, the Honorable Roanne Mann, to retain experts and get public feedback in order to have a proposed set of new congressional boundaries to the court by Monday, March 12.

A public hearing on the court's proposed lines would be held on March 15.

Legislative leaders have up to now been unable to agree upon and present a set of congressional maps to the public. We may get our first glimpse of what the state Assembly and Senate have in mind soon; maps from the parties in the case are due by the end of this week.

But some observers believe the legislature isn't going to give up its power to draw maps that easy.

"I think the chances are that they [the legislature] will get it together and draw the lines," said Jerry Goldfeder, a New York City-based election lawyer. "This is just an extra motivating force."

The question will be whether or not they've run out of time: even if the legislature is able to agree upon a set of maps, they must then get Governor Andrew Cuomo to sign them into law. And even then, the legislature's maps must then be pre-cleared by the Department of Justice, who has up to 60 days to review them.

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The Empire

Latino groups to Cuomo: Veto the legislative lines

Monday, February 27, 2012

In a letter sent to Governor Andrew Cuomo late last week, LatinoJustice and the National Institute for Latino Policy called on the Governor to veto the legislative redistricting lines that were expected to come out this week.

You will be asked to approve and sign off on proposed redistricting maps in the coming days. We ask that you not adopt these proposed districts wholesale without further scrutiny...[W]e firmly believe that the entire Senate plan and parts of the Assembly plan, have been drawn in an attempt to minimize the Latino Communities' impact and potentially violate the Latino communities' ability to elect candidates of their choice.

LatinoJustice is involved in a law suit that's challenging the legislature's progress in and process for drawing new federal and state legislative lines. It helped lead to the hearing being held in Brooklyn today to determine how much a federal court will get involved in the process.

In the letter below, the groups' presidents say the proposed state legislative maps "go out of their way to draw lines that tend to split up well-settled communities and which dilute the voting power of Latinos in certain districts."
LatinoJ Cuomo Letter

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The Empire

Redistricting round-up: McEneny, Silver say no congressional lines this week

Monday, February 27, 2012

It doesn’t look like new congressional lines will be revealed any time soon.

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The Empire

De Blasio supports the creation of a new Latino congressional seat

Friday, February 24, 2012

In a statement released today, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio threw his support behind the creation of a new Latino-majority congressional district during this year's redistricting process:

New York City rises on the foundation of our rich diversity. The remarkable achievements of Latino New Yorkers are increasingly defining our city's civic life, economy and faith communities.  Our charge, as progressives, is to ensure that the opportunity for a political voice keeps pace.

Our State Legislature has the historic opportunity to create a third Congressional District to affirm the right of the growing Latino community to elect the candidates of its choice, without significant changes to current ‘majority-minority’ Congressional districts.  With attacks on Latino electoral participation growing across the nation, creating a third Latino congressional district here would reaffirm our city's commitment to the American principles of openness, diversity and civic participation.

Creation of this new congressional district is the most appropriate means of ensuring that Latino voting interests are adequately represented in New York's congressional delegation.

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The Empire

Former AG Abrams: Gov, use your veto for a 'permanent solution' to partisan redistricting

Friday, February 24, 2012

Courtesy of the Governor's office.

Calling the process poisons for democracy, former Attorney General Bob Abrams told reporters on a conference call that Governor Andrew Cuomo was in "a unique moment in the state's history" when it comes to the decennial process of redrawing legislative district lines.

"Governor Cuomo in the campaign as candidate for governor made a pledge about vetoing lines that would be drawn in a partisan way," Abrams said. "We have for the first time some lever of power of the legislature."

The call was organized by Citizens Union, which Abrams is connected to as president of the organizations advocacy arm. He, like the organization, called on the Governor to use his veto to negotiate a compromise that sees the state's redistricting process taken out of the hands of the legislators ten years from now.

"We should use this unique moment in history—where a candidate for governor made a pledge … is prepared to stick by his pledge, but at the same time not just have that pledge effectuated by virtue of having a Pyrrhic victory--by winning a battle, but not really winning the wary," Abrams said.

The conference call was the latest in a recent push by Citizens Union to have Cuomo use his veto threat as a way to get, as Abrams put it, "permanent solution to this problem [of having the legislature draw their own lines] and have an amendment to the constitution presented to the people of New York State."

Yesterday Citizen Union's Dick Dadey sent a letter to the Governor, calling on him to "secure lasting and permanent redistricting reform through statutory change and a constitutional amendment; and pursue meaningful changes to this year’s lines by holding direct negotiations with the legislature."

Attorney General Abrams outlined a series of bullets of his own in a press release before the call. Most notably he suggested the future independent process look similar to the one currently used in Iowa. Back in September of last year, we broke down the various ways independent redistricting works (or doesn't), and highlighted the Iowa system:

Only a few states have actual independent commissions: Arizona, Hawaii, Idaho, New Jersey, Washington and California. These commissions have specific rules for who can be on the commission, and guidelines for how district lines should be drawn. In most states, the legislature has a direct role in picking the members of the commission.

For example, in Idaho the majority and minority parties in each chamber pick a commissioner, as does the head of each statewide party. None of the commissioners are allowed to be current office holders.

The commission has 90 days to come up with a plan, during which the public is allowed to comment and provide their own plans. The commission then picks a plan and votes on it. Neither the legislature nor the governor has a say in the process.

Not all good government groups are jumping on the compromise band wagon. Common Cause's Susan Lerner released a statement again calling on Cuomo to veto the lines:

"New Yorkers deserve real permanent reform of the redistricting process, and we welcome the opportunity for an open discussion of what a constitutional amendment should look like," Lerner said in the statement. "However, reform in the future is not interchangeable with the best possible result in this cycle which, due to the Legislature's intransigence, lies entirely with the courts. The Governor got it right when he promised to veto any gerrymandered lines."

She continued: "The Governor has repeatedly called for a better process this year and a better product in the future: he can have both. Vetoing the lines and letting the courts handle the process is the best possible outcome for this redistricting cycle."

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The Empire

CU's Dadey to Cuomo: Use the veto to get better maps in redistricting

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Courtesy of the Governor's office.

In a letter sent to Governor Andrew Cuomo, Citizen Union's Dick Dadey urges the Governor to use his veto threat to get better lines from the legislature and ensure fundamental reform for future redistricting.

"Citizens Union believes your veto threat provides you with valuable leverage because it poses the threat of uncertainty:  the last thing the legislature can tolerate, particularly with regard to their own districts," Dadey writes. "We respectfully request that you use your veto threat ‐ unlike any other governor before you ‐ to achieve two important goals:  secure lasting and permanent redistricting reform through statutory change and a constitutional amendment; and pursue meaningful changes to thisyear’s lines by holding direct negotiations with the legislature.  We urge you to seek districts that reflect as best as possible the criteria outlined in your program bill on redistricting.   Should this approach fail to produce needed changes to the 2012 maps and bring about lasting reform, we call on you to exercise your veto."

This call from Dadey to use the veto pen carefully essentially backs up what Cuomo told the Democrat and Chronicle late last week, when he laid out the conditions for which he would be willing to accept the lines passed by the majority parties in the state Senate and Assembly: "less hyper political" lines, and a commitment to passing both a constitutional amendment to establish an independent redistricting process as well as a law that would effectively do the same should the legislature fail to pass the constitutional amendment.

The Governor's office has pushed back strongly on the suggestion he was backing off his oft-mentioned pledge to veto lines that are drawn in a partisan way--something considered to be inevitable because the legislature is drawing them.

As YNN's Nick Reisman reports, Cuomo on Fred Dicker's show today again sounded like he was pushing back on any suggestion he's wavering in his veto threat. "If they send me these lines, these lines will be vetoed," the Governor said. But as Reisman notes, the Governor (again) is putting in qualifying language by talking about "these" lines, in other words, the current maps roundly denounced as a gerrymandered mess.

Senate Republicans and Assembly Democrats are going to come out with a new batch of maps soon. They are looking to vote on and pass a set of maps as soon as March 1--that's one week from today.

When they do, it is Cuomo and Cuomo alone who will decide whether the maps become law or likely move towards the courts. It's his veto that is the deciding factor, no matter how much he tries to understate that reality. If his remarks last week, and today's letter from Citizen Union, are any indication, it looks like the Governor is prepping us for a compromise that will see less egregious but still legislatively drawn lines become the reality.

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The Empire

The Orthodox Jewish senate district in Brooklyn: a rebuttal

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Orthodox Pundit blog has a great rebuttal to my posts on the new Orthodox Jewish majority district that's included in the proposed redistrictingmaps. My argument, made over a couple of posts, is that voting trends and registration suggest the new district isn't a sure thing for Senate Republicans and, more importantly, the dividing up of conservative voters into two senate districts in Brooklyn may end up backfiring.

In the response, the OP blogger points out the string of Republican-over-Democrat results--from McCain to Paladino--in Assemblyman Dov Hikind's district. Hikind, while a Democrat, has often sided with Republicans over social issues, and his district would be the heart of the proposed 17th Senate seat.

"They clearly lean republican," the OP blogger says. "Their registration as democrats and electing democrats is solely for political expediency. Democratic primaries are where most local races are decided, and they want to be a part of the process, and a republican city member is virtually worthless, so they will elect democrats.

"In national and statewide elections, they vote their conscience, and republicans generally do well. In local elections, where the candidates and their positions are less known, they will elect officials based on community leaders’ wishes, the candidates’ chances, and their support for the community, without any regards to party lines. This calculus until now favored democrats, because Orthodox haven’t had a chance to sway elections in places where republicans matter."

These points are well taken. OP's arguments are certainly the ones Senate Republicans had in mind when they went and drew the seat they did. The district's political leanings have far more to do with individual candidates and the issues inside the community than party registration.

The problem, though, is that senate districts are significantly bigger than assembly districts. The larger the seat, the more diverse the voting pool. In a place like Brooklyn, that means bringing in people that are actually Democratic voters.

That doesn't make anything OP is saying wrong. But the lens here is wider than just the Orthodox community, even as they will surely be the anchor to whatever district gets drawn. In trying to carve out two seats for Republicans in southern Brooklyn, Senate Republicans may be stretching themselves precariously thin.

But a lot of what happens at the end of this year will be determined by what happens in the election next month, as OP points out:

As of the current round, Lew Fidler is the clear front runner for Kruger’s seat. He’s a known in the community, and Storobin have yet to get a single community leader in the non-Russian Orthodox community behind him.

But Fidler haven’t nailed it down yet. The establishment is not firmly behind him. The two Borough Park Orthodox elected officials – even the councilman strongly behind his candidacy - have yet to endorse, and the leading Askunim are still wavering between the clear front runner and majority leader Skelos’ pick.

In essence, it’s clear that the seat is Lew Fidler’s to lose, but it is still a possibility. Should Storobin get the community leadership behind him.

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The Empire

New Orthodox Jewish state senate district, revisited

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The post from yesterday about Senate Republican plans to create a new Orthodox Jewish district in southern Brooklyn received some attention that's worth going back to (not the typos; that I apologize for and have been fixed).

One commentor, mugwump, made this observation:

What this article neglects to mention is that most of the D senators in that area were unopposed in 2010, and this simulator doesn't correct for that since it uses raw vote totals. So what you're saying is that Democrats will win SD-17 if no Republican runs. In reality the number of R votes in the Orthodox seat (and in Golden's as well) is likely to be far higher.

That's a fair point. While working on the piece, I reached out to CUNY Center for Urban Research to see if they could help me figure out if there were more metrics we could look at.

What I got back late last night was a thorough breakdown of the voting registration totals for the proposed districts. Since we can't know the true voting breakdown in an actual election for a district that hasn't been created yet, this is probably the next best metric behind the simulation highlighted in the article yesterday.

According to the state Board of Elections' most current enrollment figures, the 27th Senate District has 83,731 active Democratic enrolled voters, and 25,482 Republicans, with 30,785 unaffiliated enrolled voters. That's 58.1 percent, 17.7 percent, and 21.3 percent of the total enrollment respectively.

According to the analysis by the CUNY folks, the proposed 17th Senate District would have an enrollment that looked like this:

Total: 127,148

Democrats: 79,003 / 62.1%

Republicans: 19,393 / 15.3%

The CUNY data doesn't provide information on unaffiliated voters.

Now, on a technical note, the numbers LATFOR used for determining voter totals in districts is an older set of enrollment numbers. There are actually more Republican voters and less Democrats in the 27th now--just under 500 less Dems and about 1000 more Republicans.

It's also worth noting that these sorts of numbers are present in the enrollment numbers for the 9th Congressional District, which saw a Republican elected in a special election last year.

That seems to be the playbook Senate Republicans are working with--the right sort of Republican can motivate even Democrats to come on board in the new 17th State Senate district. But if that were a recipe for certain success, you'd have to wonder why Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver feels like keeping the 9th district around.

But I stand by my point: in trying to carve out two districts for Republicans in southern Brooklyn, Senate Republicans increase the chance they'll lose both. As the numbers above show, the new Orthodox Jewish district--all things being equal--would appear to favor a Democratic candidate.

I also mentioned Senator Marty Golden's numbers in yesterday's post. The percentage of Democrats enrolled in the district Golden would represent in the draft maps would increase from 50.4 percent Democrat currently to 51.4 percent in the proposed district.

Again, to be fair: Republicans increased by a nearly equal proportion. But upping the percentage of the opposing party's voters in your incumbents district might not be the best reelection strategy. But more it goes to show that, in a process designed to help those who draw the lines, there's only so much Senate Republicans can do (and you see the real need for a 63rd seat; 62 seats would make the districts even larger, likely bringing even more Ds into places like Golden's district).

The question will be, are they beginning to stretch these districts to the point of breaking?

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The Empire

Senate R’s pining for an Orthodox Jewish district, but at what cost?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

[Note: There were a number of errors in an earlier version of this article, including the misspelling of Congressman Bob Turner's name. They've been corrected and I apologize.]

In a month, voters in the 27th State Senate District in southern Brooklyn will go to the polls for a special election to replace former senator Carl Kruger.

This race has generated a considerable amount of interest in what would normally be a sleepy off-season political event. But Senate Republicans are making a strong run for the seat, buoyed by the strong showing in the Brooklyn side of Congressman Bob Turner’s district, which he won in a special election last fall. That Brooklyn slice just happens to represent about half of Senate District 27.

They’ve settled on David Storobin, a trial attorney and vice-president of the Republican Party in Brooklyn, emigrated from Russia two decades ago. He’s reflective in many ways of the young, Russian Jewish population Republicans are hoping to mobilize on Election Day.

On the Democratic side, the man who had long been seen as Kruger’s likely successor, City Councilman Lew Fidler, was chosen to keep the seat in the “D” column. Early on the Fidler campaign stirred up controversy by suggesting Storobin had ties to neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups. He later backed off that line of attack,saying he never called his opponent a neo-Nazi, while Storobin’s campaign has used it as a rallying cry. At least some in the Orthodox Jewish community appear to be listening.

Behind the rushed campaigning of this special election has been the impending redistricting process. No matter who wins the special election next month, they’ll be running again later this year in a district that will likely look very different than the one they win in.

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The Empire

In the end, Cuomo holds all the redistricting cards in a game voters don't care about

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Courtesy of the Governor's office

Capital New York's Josh Benson penned (or typed, really)a great piece up on their site today laying out the current redistricting scenario. Over the weekend Governor Andrew Cuomo appeared to be showing his cards in way that validated the cynics belief that he's always been bluffing on his threat to veto the legislature's lines. As Benson points out--and to what a piece by Reid Pillifant alluded to last week--Cuomo, despite sounding like he isn't, is in fact the most important piece in this whole situation:

If Cuomo vetoes the lines proposed by the legislative task force, the master will essentially be receiving a nonbinding proposal for the new lines, and will be in a position to amend that draft heavily or even to disregard it entirely, in favor of lines deemed to be fairer.

If on the other hand Cuomo signs the legislature's lines into law, the master will more or less be bound to use those lines as a basis for the final product, with his or her mission limited to ensuring that the lines are in compliance with the letter of the law. (It is not illegal for the districts to be partisan, or nonsensical.)

Yet now Cuomo appears to be wavering, even as his surrogates, both anonymous and otherwise, push back that the Governor couldn't be further from flip-flopping. Not that it's making much of a difference to voters (despite all the reasons why it should):

So why would Cuomo go back on his promise? Who knows. Perhaps he wishes to rack up the world's biggest chit from the Senate Republicans, who would quite literally owe the continued existence of their majority to Cuomo; or maybe, as the slightly darker version of this theory goes, Cuomo wants his party to stay in the minority in the Senate, because actually he would prefer to deal with a disciplined, perpetually indebted Republican majority there than a dysfunctional, chaos-making Democratic one.

It is quite possible that the governor is merely doing the politically smart thing and leaving his options open. Maybe after all the posturing, the legislature won't go far enough in crafting something Cuomo can present to the public as an enlightened compromise, and maybe then the governor will simply lose patience and issue a veto after all, putting the whole matter at the mercy of the courts.
That would be very bad news for the incumbent line-drawers, and very good news, in the short-term, for the minority parties in either house, and for would-be challengers to any majority-party incumbents in the next decade, to say nothing of voters who would like their elected officials to be more accountable to the public.

But in softening his public position, Cuomo is unmistakably laying the groundwork for the possibility of a cop-out that he can sell as something else. Perhaps he will sign the lines with a show of great reluctance, while also announcing he has secured a promise from the legislature for a constitutional amendment to ensure an independent redistricting process in a decade.

The Times editorial board would be mad, sure. But on this issue, for whatever reason, Cuomo may be past caring.

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The Empire

'The Capitol Pressroom' with Susan Arbetter

Friday, February 17, 2012

Today on "The Capitol Pressroom":

NY Daily News Albany Bureau Chief Ken Lovett and Bloomberg Business News Albany Correspondent Freeman Klopett on the Governor’s 30-day amendments, this weekend’s Black and Puerto Rican Caucus, Hank Morris, and the Cuomo-DiNapoli fissure.

Common Cause’s Susan Lerner is back with some thoughts on the latest in redistricting news.

And Soffiyah Elijah, the Deputy Director of the Criminal Justice Institute at Harvard Law School, has represented political prisoners and activists for over 18 years. Professor Elijah joins us today to discuss New York’s criminal justice system.

For show archives, please visit The Capitol Bureau's website here.

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The Empire

Voters: Wait, what's going on with redistricting?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

So full disclaimer: just because we pay a tremendous amount of attention to a subject like redistricting (and go on air to argue why folks should be paying attention), it doesn't mean we're so divorced from reality in our little news bubble that we think that issues like redistricting burn hot in the hearts of New Yorkers.

But in the event that we were forgetting that simple truth, today's Quinnipiac University poll helped correct any illusions we might have been holding.

Or, as the release on the poll puts it, "New York State voters seem to be confused or disinterested by the latest developments in the issue of legislative redistricting."

Do they ever:

  • 68 percent of voters don’t know whether or not state legislators kept their 2010 campaign promise to support an independent commission to create legislative district lines;
  • 67 percent say they heard nothing about the new district lines created by state legislators;
  • 71 percent don’t know whether or not they approve of these lines;
  • 66 percent don’t know whether or not they want the governor to veto these lines.

“Politicians watch the redistricting dance with fascination.  After all, it affects their future.   But voters can’t or won’t follow this important – but not very sexy – issue,” said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, in a statement.

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The Empire

Redistricting lawsuit defendents: Judge's ruling no big deal

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Last night a federal judge gave a lawsuit filed by a group of voters, and supported by numerous civic and good government groups, to have the courts take over the redistricting process.

But today the defendants in the case Judge Dora Irizarry issued her opinion on last night say the move was more procedure than declaration.

"She just convened the three judge court, which everyone had agreed she needed to do," said Michael Carvin, who's working on behalf of LATFOR defendants in the case. "This is just sort of the next shoe dropping. This is no big deal."

Carvin, who put the legal heavy weight behind the creation of a 63rd Senate district, says he feels the focus in the press on Irizarry's request for the appointment of a special master to take over the redistricting process is overblown.

"Obviously that's what people are talking about, but that's a decision for the three judge court," he said. "I don't even know if it's a recommendation if you parse her sentence. She's saying that you need to consider this and obviously everybody agrees that you need to consider it."

While Irizarry agreed with the plaintiffs' concern the redistricting process is moving at a dangerously slow pace, Carvin said the next legal steps are really determined by what LATFOR ends up doing.

"We're going to take a very practical approach: Do you have time to draw lines and how probable is it that the legislature is going to enact something," he asked. "If the legislature enacts something this is all moot."

Carvin did acknowledge that, unlike the appearance given by legislators in Albany, the new district lines for congress is really the issue most pressing for the court: "The obvious point is that congress needs to go first because they're under tighter time deadlines. There's no time crunch at all for the state legislative lines."

The lawyers working on behalf of some of the plaintiffs in the case called the judge's opinion "a major step forward" in having the redistricting process get handled by a judicially-appointed special master.

A person close to the legal efforts on the plaintiff's side pushed back on the suggestion that the judge's opinion was of small significance:

Until the court is convinced that New York will have a plan that’s voted on, signed by the Governor, and approved by the justice department in time for congressional petitioning on March 20, then all bets on the legislature getting its job done are off.

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The Empire

'The Capitol Pressroom' with Susan Arbetter

Friday, February 10, 2012

Today on "The Capitol Pressroom":

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman joins us to explain how the $25 billion state and federal mortgage settlement he signed with other attorneys-general around the country will help New Yorkers facing foreclosure.

Democratic redistricting expert Todd Breitbart says the Senate’s redistricting lines are like Sirens, designed to lure your attention away from some of the more egregious issues within the plan.

Dr. Rick Timbs of the Statewide School Finance Consortium says the Governor has unequivocally stated there is a problem with how school aid is distributed around the state. What’s next?

For show archives, please visit The Capitol Bureau's website here.

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The Empire

'The Capitol Pressroom' with Susan Arbetter

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Today on "The Capitol Pressroom":

If you're involved in the education reform movement, you've probably heard of Valerie Babb. She is the Director of the Charter Parent Action Network at New York City Charter School Center. City & State named her one of their 40 under 40. She has butted heads with Dr. Hazel Dukes of the New York State Chapter of the NAACP. Now Dr. Babb has her sites on improving the work and image of the education reform movement. She is in Albany today and will be dropping by the Plywood Hut to chat about the issue.

On the Capitol Pressroom last week Senator John DeFrancisco (R – Syracuse) accused the New York Public Interest Research Group of shilling for the Democratic Party since the group was more critical of the Senate's newly redrawn district maps, than it was of the Assembly's. Bill Mahoney of NYPIRG has a few things to say about that.

And we continue the conversation on hydrofracking from two perspectives:

Deborah Rogers is the founder of the Energy Policy Forum (www.energypolicyforum.com).  She's also served on the Advisory Council for the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas since 2008. She was appointed in 2011 by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to a task force reviewing placement of air monitors in the Barnett Shale region in light of air quality concerns brought about by the natural gas operations in North Texas. She also joined a regional steering committee for the Oil and Gas Accountability Project (OGAP) in 2011 with responsibility for economic questions.

Ken Smith, Cornell Cooperative Extension director for Chenango County, will cover latest developments of natural gas in New York, as well as some of the issues that farmers will face if fracking goes forward.

For show archives, please visit The Capitol Bureau's website here.

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The Empire

Kolb: Buffalo or Rochester should lose a congressional seat

Monday, January 30, 2012

More from New York State Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb on redistricting: he also says one of three upstate Democratic-held Congressional seats should be on the chopping block.

His counterpart in the majority, Democratic Speaker Sheldon Silver, is quoted in a Daily News article saying he'd like to keep New York's 9th Congressional District--currently held by Republican Bob Turner--in place.

Kolb said his preference, if the logic of one upstate and one downstate district being removed still held, would be for one of the Western New York Districts to be gone.

"I think it generally should be somewhere in the urban areas," Kolb said. "The city of Buffalo would probably be one place to start."

Kolby cited Buffalo's population loss over the past decade as the main reason one of the two districts that encircle Erie County--NY-28, held by Rep. Louise Slaughter, and NY-27, held by Rep. Brian Higgins--should disappear.

Kolb also pointed to Rep. Kathleen Hochul's 26th Congressional District as a good candidate for removal.

"Between Rochester and Buffalo that would be the liklihood, where you've got one congressional representative too many if you just look at the population centers," he said.

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The Empire

League of Women Voters wants Cuomo to use his veto pen

Friday, January 27, 2012

Here's the relative statement from the League released this afternoon:

We expect that the public demand for reform shown over this last year allows for a unique opportunity in time to fundamentally alter the redistricting process in this state. The governor has publicly stated that these lines are unacceptable and he will consider a veto. We agree. The League will work with the governor and the legislature to realize lasting structural reform to this fundamentally flawed redistricting process. The certainty of achieving reform for 2022 is critical.

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