Despite a pledge to New Yorkers throughout the state to pursue comprehensive reform aimed at stripping the politics out of redrawing election districts, State Republicans have dug in and refused to debate any one of the bills that have been submitted by lawmakers to address this issue.
I mean take your pick: Senator Gianaris, Assemblyman Jefferries and even Governor Cuomo all have presented bills to make the process more transparent and bi-partisan but Senate Majority Speaker Dean Skelos has time and again avoided the issue citing concern over the growing budget deficit as the main focus for his conference and that undertaking any other legislation could be harmful to getting our books in order.
While I wouldn’t want to ask the Majority leader to try and tackle two things at the same time – State Democrats are prepared to do so and are done sitting idly by. This week 11 members of the Rules Committees lead by Senator Neil Breslin and freshman democrats Michael Gianaris and Gustavo Rivera petitioned the chair Sen Thomas Libous (R-Binghamton) for a hearing to discuss passage of the Cuomo bill. Now Republicans can no longer hide behind procedures and vague statements. Refusing this opportunity to discuss its merits in the open would be a public omission of disagreeing with 61% of New Yorkers who want to see the creation of an independent redistricting commission made law. Basically if you don’t think your constituents are right, its time you said so.
And even if Majority Leader Skelos decides to defy the public’s desire to see movement on this issue there could be other options on the table. In a letter released to the press last week Bill Samuels, founder of the New Roosevelt Initiative and a leading voice when it comes to creating a more transparent state government, suggested that Governor Cuomo take the unusual, but strong approach of including the bill in his budget proposal while declaring intentions to de-fund LATFOR, the flawed partisan committee employed by the majority to handle the redistricting process.
To help push this process forward its imperative that we act now to support these 11 Democratic Senators and help spread word about the need for a better process by signing the petition at wwww.passthepledge.com to urging Senator Skelos and the other 31 Republicans to keep their word.
Keeping the pressure on is important and necessary to put Republicans lawmakers on notice and as Mr. Samuels said “Those who signed the pledge with no intention of keeping their word to the voters need to know that there will be consequences come reelection time”
Let’s all help and remind them.