NYS Needs a Constitutional Amendment on Redistricting
Congressional and state legislative redistricting are hot, hot topics across the US. In New York the issue is coming to a head and good intentions, political theory and hard politics are colliding with brazen partisan politics.
For good reasons and bad, there's a consensus that the role of elected officials should be limited. Right now redistricting is just another law, passed by both houses and signed by the Governor. Good government groups and editorialists want to hand over the power to set district lines by appointed commissions. It's not a simple choice but in the end it's the best way to go.
NY's redoubtable Ed Koch has been the leader of the commission forces and through sheer force of character got every politician in the state tosign up with him. But little has happened, nothing at all for this cycle, and the negotiations are focused on ten years from now. Governor Andrew Cuomo has taken a tough, Koch-ish position but he is pushing for a permanant solution - not just better lines this year, but reform that will stay in place once and for all.
The best way to achieve that is through amending the state constitution. While a Member of the Assembly I drafted a constitutional amendment just like what's being discussed now. The key reason is simple. A law, passed in 2012, can be repealed or evaded by the Governor and Legislature 10 years from now. A constitutional amendment binds everyone. In addition, the structure of the commission being discussed now is in many ways stronger than other statutory and constitutional proposals.
The constitutional amendment process remains preferable. Lots of history and personality in the split amongst the good guys. Albany folks need to remember this isn't talk radio and the hotter the rhetoric the worse the legislative outcome. C'mon fellas, get together. And try the constitutional amendment first.