Law & Order
After a series of New York officials were arrested and charged with corruption last week, Governor Andrew Cuomo says he has the solution–or at least the first step. Accordingly, at press conference earlier this afternoon, Mr. Cuomo unveiled a legislative package aimed at curbing the problem.
“Over the past few days, there have been several charges brought against public officials; they span city and state government,” he began. “And they paint a truly ugly picture of our political landscape. I’d like to say that this is an unprecedented situation, that public corruption is a new problem. But it isn’t and, in many ways, that’s what makes it worse.”
Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver might be aggressively pushing for an increase to New York State’s minimum wage, but Majority Leader Dean Skelos threw a big bucket of cold water on the idea after a press conference on college affordability earlier today.
“Every single small businessperson, that I’ve had the opportunity to meet with and talk to, say they would have to lay off people because of these additional costs,” he said. “To me, the moral imperative is to have as many people working as possible.”
the big ugly
Earlier today, the New York State Senate Democrats asked the court currently enacting the state’s new Congressional redistricting plan to consider expanding their efforts and, at the very least, draw up their own maps for the State Senate as well.
They made two core arguments about the need for this legal action in their letter to the court.
“First, the Legislature’s plan is subject to preclearance by the Department of Justice pursuant to section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, a process that can take up to 60 days,” the wrote, referring to the required process of federal review for some counties in New York like the Bronx, Manhattan, and Brooklyn.
In the wee hours of the morning, Governor Andrew Cuomo blasted out a statement touting two of the three aspects of his redistricting compromise: a constitutional amendment providing a commission to draw districts the in the future and a statue to implement the amendment as ordinary law if the Legislature doesn’t follow through with its promise to pass the amendment in the subsequent legislative session.
(Left unsaid are the “less hyper-political” lines standard he previously presented as a condition of his support.)
“This agreement will permanently reform the redistricting process in New York to once and for all end self-interested and partisan gerrymandering,” Governor Cuomo said in the release.
After much anticipation, the federal courts have released new congressional maps for the State of New York tonight. Assuming the Legislature can’t come to a last minute agreement, the boundaries below will likely represent the redistricting landscape on the federal level for the next ten years.
Last week, the court presented a draft map which contained a number of substantial changes to the electoral landscape. Notably, Congressmen Bob Turner, Maurice Hinchey, and Gary Ackerman saw their districts dismantled. Two of these districts inevitably had to be cut, as New York is required to lose two Congressional Districts this cycle. The plan additionally created a new Asian-plurality district in Queens that Mr. Ackerman has vowed to campaign for.
(Mr. Turner may be currently exploring a possible run for the U.S. Senate and Mr. Hinchey is retiring.)
After strangely delaying releasing what the actual State Legislative maps will look like under their latest proposal, Albany’s redistricting task force post finally released the maps this evening.
Like the State Senate plan that the Senate Democrats released earlier today, the State Assembly plan appears to change very little from the draft maps. The official release on the State Government website, however, provides additional detail.
In typical fashion, the State Legislature released their new redistricting maps for the State Senate and State Assembly in the dark of the night on Sunday in an unreadable 20,000 word textual format instead of actually providing visual map.
The Senate Democrats, however, apparently compiled the data and provided the new State Senate maps to reporters.
“Since the Senate Republicans are content on keeping the public in the dark and concealing the maps that they produced, we will do it for them,” Senate Democratic spokesman Mike Murphy wrote. “Attached you will find the maps which show very clearly that there is virtually no change from their previous proposal.”
Last night, the State Legislature released a new batch of gerrymandered legislative lines and a constitutional amendment to reform the process in the future, and, further revealing his intentions this morning, Governor Andrew Cuomo trashed the alternative to him signing the Legislature’s proposal, the courts intervening and drawing their own map.
(Mr. Cuomo had previously vowed to send the maps to the courts unless an independent commission drew them.)
“I’ll tell you this, for those people who are arguing, ‘Well, the best thing we can do is let the courts draw the lines.’ We saw what happened when the court draws the lines, we have the congressional lines,” he said on Fred Dicker’s radio show today, referring to the court releasing its first draft of the congressional map.
Albany released the text of the new State Legislative lines last night, but not the maps, resulting in limited clarity for what the new maps will look like. At first glance at the 20,000 word document, it seems a partisan gerrymander remains in place.
However, Albany also released a legible redistricting document last night, the constitutional amendment to permanently reform the process in the future in 2022. The proposed amendment appears designed to lock in this year’s set of maps rather than create any sort of truly independent commission. “The commission shall consider the maintenance of cores of existing districts, of pre-existing political subdivisions, including counties, cities, and towns, and communities of interest,” the bill reads.
Governor Andrew Cuomo has so heavily hedged on whether or not he will veto the Legislature’s redistricting proposal that even ardent experts in Kremlinology — the Soviet-era practice of grasping onto tidbits of information broadcasted from behind the Iron Curtain — would be soundly challenged.
Complicating the whole matter is the issue’s obscurity. Redistricting simply isn’t relevant to most New Yorkers. The average person on the street probably doesn’t know who most of his or her local representatives are, let alone where the boundaries lie. Yet editorial boards and good government groups believe the practice of letting legislators pick their voters, instead of the other way around, is at the core of many of the structural problems in Albany.
For that reason, Mr. Cuomo has vowed time and time again to veto the legislature’s maps and send the entire cartographic process to the courts, which the first five or so quotes from the slideshow will demonstrate. However, his rhetoric began hinting a move in another direction at the end of last year.