Editorial ( Excerpted)
Published: March 16, 2012
By agreeing to a deeply flawed deal with state lawmakers, Gov. Andrew Cuomo gave in to Albany’s secretive and undemocratic ways of doing business.
Despite repeated promises that he would veto gerrymandered districts drawn by legislators, the governor broke that vow and quietly signed the law that will allow unfair legislative elections in New York for the next 10 years. By approving the Legislature’s districts, he has now made it far more difficult for the courts to revise these defective maps.
Mr. Cuomo and his supporters argue that a veto of the distorted maps would have stalled his legislative priorities. But he could have used his popular support among voters and his political muscle to stop this outrageously antidemocratic redistricting process, which rewards the worst elements of Albany’s political culture. He says his decision is a reasonable compromise, but it’s hard to think that what he got is worth another decade of Albany’s status quo.
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Mr. Cuomo also convinced lawmakers to start the long process of amending the State Constitution in two troubling ways. One amendment would create a bipartisan commission to design redistricting after the 2020 census. But that proposal is too flawed to work and gives the final say back to the Legislature. This commission would create a highly partisan process that could result in gridlock and more litigation. The lawmakers did, however, pass a stopgap redistricting bill that is slightly better than the amendment. That law would go into effect if the amendment doesn’t pass and would give the Legislature a little less say over districts maps.
The other constitutional amendment — one that would allow as many as seven full-fledged casinos across the state — deserves even more public scrutiny. To change the Constitution, these two amendments must be passed again next year. After that, the state voters must approve them.
Mr. Cuomo concluded this deal in one, frantic, overnight session that kept the public and even most legislators in the dark. “We have been brought back to the ugly days of the past,” said State Senator Liz Krueger, a Democrat from Manhattan. She and many of her fellow Senate Democrats marched out of the Senate chamber at one point to protest the lack of debate. But since Democrats are in the minority in the Senate, the bills passed swiftly anyway. On Thursday after the votes, Mr. Cuomo said the deal was designed to “make New York government work.” The truth is, this deal guarantees that the back-room politics that have infected Albany for generations will govern for another decade.