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State GOP now blocking nonpartisan redistricting

Feb 24, 2011 9:02 am
[caption id="" align="alignright" width="200" caption="State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos has changed his tune on nonpartisan redistricting, and is now working to block a bill from Gov. Andrew Cuomo that would set up a commission to handle such matters."][/caption]New York State Senate Democrats are protesting the legislative body's Republican majority attempt to scuttle Gov. Andrew Cuomo's redistricting bill by using a new reading of the chamber's rules to prevent senators from co-sponsoring the legislation. The main issue here, according to a story by Casey Seiler of the Times-Union, has to do with the redrawing of state assembly and senate boundaries, as well as those for U.S. Congress districts, a process known as "gerrymandering" that occurs every ten years following a U.S. Census. For decades, NYS reform advocates have complained state districts, as now drawn, tend to protect entrenched political power -- a charge supported by the state's high rate of incumbency. Last summer, former NYC Mayor Ed Koch put together a pledge for candidates to sign on to the creation of a nonpartisan commission to handle the redistricting this year, something Cuomo supported when he announced his similar bill earlier this month. But the state Senate's Republican Majority Leader Dean Skelos, who had previously supported nonpartisan redistricting and signed Koch's pledge, has since switched sides on the issue. By setting up roadblocks to co-sponsorship of the governor's bill, and turning down Senate Dems' requests to co-sponsor Cuomo's bill, it seems he's pushing hard now to actually keep gerrymandering in GOP hands. Look for this issue to heat up and dovetail with budget cuts and other matters underway in the Capital.