ALBANY -- The Democratic minority in the state Senate plans to try Monday to force the Republican majority to hold a public airing of a bill that aims to reform New York’s notorious redistricting process and that is now bottled up in a GOP-controlled committee.
The Democrats’ effort to petition for a public hearing on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s bill is the latest clash in the chamber over redistricting reform, which good-government groups have long said is at the heart of Albany’s dysfunction. Redistricting is the process where election district lines are redrawn every 10 years based on Census data. In Albany, majority parties have long drawn lines to protect their power and their incumbents through often contorted designs.
“The Republican majority chose to send the governor’s legislation to the Rules Committee where it can anonymously avoid public
oversight,” wrote Democratic Sen. Neil Breslin of Albany. The deputy minority leader made the comment in a letter to the GOP majority obtained by The Associated Press. Breslin said the longshot effort by the Democrats gives Republicans “a second chance to stand up on the side of reform.”
Democrats will use a little-noticed Senate rule to try to force a public hearing and to politically embarrass the Republicans, who hold a 32-30 majority. Democrats held a 32-30 majority from 2008 to 2010 after they won control of the Senate on a reform platform that included independent redistricting, but never pushed the issue into
“For two years, Senate Democrats failed to do anything about high taxes and the need to create jobs and they spent us into a massive deficit,” said Mark Hansen, spokesman for the Senate’s Republican majority. “Even though we are in the middle of the budget process, they have no solutions to offer to balance the budget and they want to tax businesses and families even more. New Yorkers put Republicans back in the majority to fix the budget, cut taxes and create jobs and that is what we intend to
Senate Democratic leader John Sampson of Brooklyn has said, however, that his conference opposes raising taxes.
Under the rule Democrats will cite Monday, one-third of the members of any committee can petition for a public hearing on any issue. That will allow Democrats with 11 members on the powerful Rules Committee with 24 members to schedule a hearing. The rule also allows, however, the opportunity for a majority to reject the petition. That could happen if all Republican members vote against the public hearing.
“A public hearing will guarantee the oversight, transparency and accountability this critical legislation deserves,” Breslin wrote in the letter.
The conflict planned for Monday morning is the latest in which the Democrats and Republicans have tried to paint the other conference as opposed to much-needed reform.
Last fall, Republicans then in the minority quickly signed a pledge to enact redistricting reform. The pledge was from the New York Uprising reform group headed by former Democratic New York City Mayor Ed Koch, with supporters who include former Mayor Rudy Giuiliani, a Republican.