Pension and redistricting dominate the Albany conversation

STEPHON JOHNSON Amsterdam News Staff | 3/22/2012, 4:27 p.m.

"A better way to move this state forward would have been to hold Wall Street accountable for nearly destroying the U.S. economy and closing corporate loopholes that allow them to continue to reap the benefits on the backs of working New York families."

Another source of controversy in Albany revolved around redistricting, as the Republicans in the Senate and the Democrats in the Assembly look to hold onto power. Last week, it was revealed that the revised state legislative redistricting lines weren't too different from the highly debated ones introduced at the beginning of 2012. The revised district lines included a 63rd Senate seat that would cut through five counties and break Albany County in half.

In addition to the new lines, legislators proposed an amendment to the state constitution. After the 2020 Census, districts couldn't be drawn to the advantage or disadvantage of political parties or particular candidates. However, party leaders would be able to appoint the 10 members of the independent redistricting commission directly or indirectly. Cuomo signed the Senate and Assembly maps into law last Thursday.

Regardless, New York State Sen. John Sampson isn't letting redistricting go without a fight. In an emailed statement to the AmNews, he called the results a "disgusting assault on democracy" and said the redistricting process for 2012 isn't over.

Last week, the Senate Democrats filed suit in the state Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the 63rd District's creation.

"Additional challenges will be coming before the Department of Justice and federal courts against racial gerrymandering, the cracking and packing of minority communities and the blatant violation of the one person-one vote principle," said Sampson. "To those who participated in this affront to democracy, we say, 'We'll see you in court.'"

The U.S. Justice Department will look over the maps to see if they disenfranchise minority voters.

Pension reform and redistricting. These two pieces of legislation will have a massive impact on the future of working-class and ethnic minority New Yorkers' economic future, and the battle lines for the various parties have already been drawn.