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by Jay Gallagher

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

League members want answers on reform proposals

More than 200 League members from as far away as Suffolk County and Buffalo were part of a crowd of greater than 300 people who gathered today in Albany to hear what legislative leaders and statewide elected officials plan to do to clean up state government.

Much of the discussion focused on redistricting, which will take place in time for 2012 elections. The process has been oft-criticized by the League and other reform groups because they see it as a tool to increase majority-party chances of winning more seats.

The heads of the Assembly and Senate majority legislative parties, Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan and Majority Leader John Sampson, D-Brooklyn, said they would look at any bills calling for a change in the process, which divides the Legislature and Congress into new districts based on the most recent census data. But they made no commitments.

Senate Minority Leader Dean Skelos, R-Nassau County, said he would back nonpartisan redistricting, even if his party wins back the majority in November.

Silver insisted that his party enjoys such a large majority in the Assembly (106-42) because there are so many more enrolled Democrats than Republicans in the state. He also said Democrats are better at attracting voters who aren’t enrolled in a party.

“Lassie could win a race in my district’’ if the canine of filmdom was a Democrat, he joked.

Gov. David Paterson, whose term expires at the end of the year and is not on the ballot for another one, said he hopes to negotiate an agreement on a new ethics bill before he leaves office.

Earlier this year he vetoed one passed by both houses because he said the enforcement powers weren’t strict enough. The League had urged him to sign it, on the theory it represented an advance over the status quo.

Besides Sampson, Silver and Skelos, Minority Leader Assemblyman Brian Kolb, R-Canandaigua, also attended, and state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli gave an address and answered questions via a television link to New York City.

That left Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, the presumptive Democratic candidate for governor this year, as the only legislative leader or statewide elected official not to attend. A staff member said he had a scheduling conflict.

The meeting, which was streamed live statewide over the Internet, was sponsored by Reinvent Albany, a new York York City-based reform group.

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