State Legislature spends first day of session working on bi-partisan bill

Jan 10, 2012

The New York State legislature, on its first official day of business, acted in a show of bi- partisanship, to divest the state of investments in Iran, but Democrats and Republicans in the Senate continue to argue over redistricting. 

In a rare joint appearance in the Assembly Speaker’s conference room, Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Democrat, and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, a Republican, announced that both of their houses would pass a bill that would require New York State to ban contracts with companies who do more than $20 million dollars worth of business in the Iran energy sector each year.

The Republican led Senate also approved without much rancor, Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo’s new appointment to head the MTA, Joseph Lhota .

But while Assembly Democrats and Senate Republicans are on the same page so far, the Senate GOP and Senate Democrats are divided over the issue of redrawing district new lines, which is required by the 2010 census, and due shortly.

Over the weekend, Senate Republicans posted a memo on  the legislature’s redistricting website from their legal counsel.  It justifies the creation of a 63rd Senate seat in the reconfiguring of district lines. Senate Leader Skelos says the legal reasoning for the additional district is based on methodologies that were successfully defended in court ten years ago, the last time the district lines were reconfigured.

“We’re following the constitution,” said Skelos. “We believe it carries through to this redistricting, which will include 63 Senate seats.”  

But Senate Democrats, including Senator Michael Gianaris, are calling it a political power play, saying the additional seat could help keep Republicans in power at the expense of Democrats.  Senator Gianaris says he’s looking to Governor Cuomo to follow through on a threat to veto any bill with gerrymandered districts, but the governor did not mention that position in his State of the State speech, though it appeared in a written version of the message.

The Senate Democrats’ representative on the redistricting task force, Senator Martin Dilan, predicts a lawsuit if the GOP carries out its proposal.