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New Roosevelt Initiative Calls On Gov. Cuomo To Add Redistricting Reform To His Budget Proposal To Increase Pressure On Senate Republicans To Pass The Bill

Advocates Cuomo use political capital to persuade a few Senate Republicans to vote for the bill while simultaneously adding the plan to his budget proposal before Thursday deadline to increase pressure on the GOP caucus; Urges Cuomo to line-item veto additional funding for LATFOR to force a resolution; Samuels calls on GOP Majority Leader Dean Skelos to immediately voice any legitimate objections to the bill, so they can be debated by the Rules Committee

New York, NY – Bill Samuels, founder of the Albany reform organization New Roosevelt Initiative, today called on Governor Cuomo actively put political pressure on individual Senate Republicans to persuade them to live up to the Koch pledge and pass his redistricting reform bill during the current legislative session.

To create further pressure on Senate Republicans to pass the measure, Samuels urged Cuomo to immediately add the redistricting reform bill to his budget proposal, a tactic the Governor is currently using this procedure for his proposal to curb Medicaid costs. Cuomo has until Thursday, March 3rd to add amendments to his budget proposal and it would prevent lawmakers from changing the language of his reform proposal, in effect, forcing Senate Republicans to take an up or down vote on the measure.

At the same time Samuels said that Cuomo should signal that he would use the line-item veto to prevent further funding for the current redistricting task force LATFOR (Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment), a move first suggested by NYPIRG. The move would force Senate Republicans to face a timely resolution to redistricting reform in time to affect the 2012 district maps.

“Governor Cuomo is living up to his campaign pledge by submitting his Redistricting Reform bill, but we have been at this juncture before and I’m highly skeptical it can be passed this session unless there is extraordinary pressure by the Governor.” Samuels said. “Cuomo must start risking his personal political capital to get redistricting reform passed. Redistricting reform is the first step towards regaining the voters trust in Albany and making it the best state legislature in the country.”

“While addressing the state’s economic and budgetary issues are important, it is equally important that we pass redistricting reform during the current legislative session. That is why he should take the unusual step of including the reform bill in his budget proposal, while declaring he will line-item veto funding for the current, but flawed, redistricting committee LATFOR,” Samuels added.

Samuels also put Chairman of the Senate Rules Committee and Majority Leader Dean Skelos on the spot for burying the bill. “He must immediately state any plausible objections to the bill, so they can be publicly debate. Anything less proves that he is not serious about redistricting reform and only wants to obstruct it,” Samuels.

Samuels said lawmakers who signed the Koch pledge and renege on that pledge are no different than former Democratic lawmakers Pedro Espada and Hiram Monserrate. “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.

Samuels explained that without a firm resolution on redistricting by the end of the current session, the Independent Redistricting Committee (IRC) will not be able to have a thorough process and public debate on the matter, let alone have an impact on the 2012 redistricting maps.

“An Independent Redistricting Commission, appointed in a timely manner is the best course of action.” Samuels said. “We cannot wait for a resolution to redistricting via the Governor’s veto in January 2012 because history has shown time and time again that we cannot rely on the courts to fix badly gerrymandered districts.”

“The only way it will be solved is thru serious redistricting reform such as the proposal that Cuomo has put forth and the extraordinary measures needed to get it thru the legislature,” Samuels added.

However, if the Governor’s Redistricting Reform bill were passed by the end of March, it would allow for the following to occur:

  • Would have enough time to be pre-cleared by the U.S. Department of Justice (up to a two-month process);
  • Just over a four month period to nominate and pick the eight redistricting commissioners; have commission  develop a plan(s) for the Senate, Assembly and Congress;
  • Allow for public hearings that would be televised and webcast;
  • Give commission time to post draft plans for comment;
  • Allow time before the end of the year for 2nd and 3rd back up plans to be considered should the initial plan fail to  pass or is vetoed;

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