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Gov. faces redistricting and pensions

HERB BOYD Special to the AmNews | 4/16/2013, 4:50 p.m.
Gov. faces redistricting and pensions

Gov. Andrew Cuomo seems to be taking an aggressive stand when it comes to both redistricting and changes in the pension system for public employees, which seems to be leading him more and more onto a collision course with the state Legislature and public unions.

If you accept what some polls are indicating, the governor has public support in pushing for a cheap pension system for public employees, and he has found the means to convince New Yorkers that the current system is just too expensive to maintain. For Cuomo, hoping to cement his growing popularity, the proposed pension changes are a "seminal clash" in the budget and his administration. However, on Monday, the Legislature laid out its 2012-2013 budget without Cuomo's pension proposal, which means the battle lines are being drawn.

Equally problematic is the redrawing of district lines mandated by the Census. Sunday evening, legislators in the state Senate, with a Republican majority, completed their final proposal, which they were prompted to finish after U.S. magistrate judge Roanne Mann presented her version last week. Their current plan differs very little from the original one, which the governor promised to veto.

"We've made dozens of changes to the original maps, virtually all of them based on public input," Scott Reif, a spokesperson for the Senate majority, told the press. Moreover, he added, they "have advanced a constitutional amendment that would achieve historic reform of the process. As a result, this is an even better reapportionment plan."

Meanwhile, on Monday, Mann released her final recommendations on the issue. Like the Legislature's, her recommendation offers few changes and is now slated for a public hearing on Wednesday. By then we should know the impact of a call by community and clergy leaders from the four corners of the state, which demands that the governor veto the maps proposed by the Legislature, which they feel are extremely "gerrymandered."

There are also disgruntled elected officials in Brooklyn, particularly Hakeem Jeffries, who are very upset with the judge's rendering. Mann's congressional lines for Harlem will create a new district for Rep. Charles Rangel, with the majority of its voters being Hispanic.

If the immovable force has met the irresistible force, something has to give because by March 20, the petitioning period for prospective House representatives is slated to begin. In any event, the state will lose two congressional seats, one Republican and one Democrat, in some undisclosed region of the state. Also at stake is the Senate's intention to expand its numbers from 62 to 63.

Mann and her team had released a proposal last week and the final version is much the same. The proposal will now go up for a public hearing on Wednesday in New York City.

In the new map, Oneida County remains intact, but the district extends south to include Binghamton. It also reaches east into the lower portion of Herkimer County and takes in part of Oswego County to the west. The bulk of Oneida County is in the current 24th Congressional District, represented by U.S. Rep. Richard Hanna, R-Barneveld.