“A majority of lawmakers have pledged support for redistricting reform and voters should not have to wait until after the election to see if legislators will keep their word.”

Albany, NY – Democratic activist Bill Samuels and his New Roosevelt Initiative (NRI) called upon Governor Paterson Thursday to convene a “truly extraordinary” special legislative session in Albany to address the list of outstanding reform agenda items long ignored but supposedly supported by lawmakers, a majority of whom have either sponsored or signed pledges to support.

“Governor Paterson should call a session specifically to address reform issues. I urge him to bring lawmakers back to Albany and keep them there until they either vote on these bills or affirmatively decide to keep them bottled up in committee and admit they were lying about their commitment to reform,” Bill Samuels said.

“Voters should not have to wait until after the election to see if legislators will keep their word,” said Samuels whose New Roosevelt Initiative has been urging candidates to support his five pillars of reform, which include: Fiscal Integrity, Campaign Finance, Redistricting, Ethics and Rules reforms. The New Roosevelt Initiative has prepared a detailed briefing book on all five subjects, which is available at the NRI website (www.NewRooseveltInitiative.com).

A majority of State Senators (46 out of the 61) have signed the New York Uprising Pledge, in which they committed to supporting specific reform issues. In the Assembly a majority of Members (86 out of 149) have either signed the same pledge or are co-sponsors of Independent Redistricting reform legislation (S.1614-B/A.5279-B) sponsored by Senator Valesky and Assembly Member Gianaris. This legislation has also been endorsed by Attorney General and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo in his first book, The New NY Agenda.

“A majority of legislators in both houses are publicly committed to supporting Independent Redistricting,” explained Samuels. “There is no excuse to wait any longer, and it will not be acceptable for either house to simply gavel in and gavel out without voting on this bill. Members who claim to support redistricting reform must be prepared to force the bill out of committee if leadership will not allow it to be voted on. Failure to do so would clearly show that their pledges and bill sponsorship are nothing more than empty promises and that legislators cannot be trusted to fulfill their commitments.”

In addition to Independent Redistricting, Samuels called for the Governor to include his proposals on other critical reform issues, forcing action on:

• Independent Redistricting (S.1614-B/A.5279-B) sponsored by Senator Valesky and Assembly Member Gianaris
• Independent State Ethics Commission as proposed by Governor Paterson in S.6615/A.9715
• Campaign Finance Reform as proposed by Governor Paterson in S.6615/A.9715
• Fiscal Reform adopting Generally Accepted Accounting Practices (GAAP) as originally proposed by Governor Paterson in Program Bill No. 307

“All of these issues deserve a fair hearing and the voters deserve to know if their legislators will support them,” continued Samuels. “Individual Senators and Assembly members must demand that these bills come to the floor for a vote. And if they dare to gavel out without voting on these, after they have pledged to support these bills, they’d better be prepared for angry voters when they get home.”

In urging Governor Paterson to included Ethics reform as part of the Reform Session agenda, Samuels cited recent revelations about Senator George Winner’s law firm, which was representing companies which were pursuing drilling in the Marcellus shale, even as Senator Winner was working in Albany to block a moratorium on such drilling.

“This is an obvious conflict of interest,” said Samuels. “Winner and his law firm were making money – we still don’t know how much – from the very companies that stood to profit from Senator Winner’s actions in the State Legislature. That’s unacceptable. We need real ethics reform and full transparency of outside income from everybody, including attorneys, and again, the voters should not have to wait until next year to see if current legislators will keep their word.”

“I give Mayor Koch and New York Uprising tremendous credit for pushing this, and the Governor now has the power to bring legislators back to Albany to make good on their word,” continued Samuels. “That is why on behalf of New Roosevelt and reformers across the state of New York, I urge Governor Paterson to call legislators back, pass redistricting reform and bring other reform measures, including Ethics reform, Fiscal reform and Campaign Finance Reform to the floor for a vote.”

Samuels ended his campaign for Lieutenant Governor and State Senate President in early June in order to expand NRI, an organization dedicated to electing pro-reform Democratic candidates to the State Senate through independent, aggressive field campaigns.

For more information about the New Roosevelt Initiative, go to www.newrooseveltinitiative.com

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