ALBANY -- A bigger state Senate wouldn't be better, or at least not from the perspective of the chamber's minority Democrats.
The conference roundly criticized the possibility that the Senate's Republican majority would add an extra member during the current redistricting process, which will be accomplished by a panel controlled by them and the Assembly's Democratic majority. The idea was discussed Monday in an article in the New York Daily News that drew on unnamed Republican sources.
The chamber is currently divided 32-30, although four Democrats broke away from the main body after the party lost control of the chamber after the 2010 elections.
"What the Senate Republicans are doing is illegal and no reading of the State Constitution would allow a new seat to be created," said Senate Democratic spokesman Mike Murphy in a statement Monday. "We are witnessing the depths that the Republicans will go to hold onto power."
Senate GOP spokesman Scott Reif said it was "beyond premature" to discuss what the legislative panel, known as LATFOR, might recommend even before its first round of public hearings concludes.
"However, it's pretty clear that the Senate Democrats didn't learn any lessons from their two disastrous years in the majority," Reif said in his own statement. "Why else would they continue to spend every waking hour talking about redistricting and ignoring the issues that keep middle-class families up at night, like whether they can afford to pay their taxes or find a good job?"
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in his Monday press conference he has "heard nothing" about the idea of expanding the Senate -- a move he described as "significant."
"There's been no new developments or new discussions," said Cuomo, a longtime critic of the current redistricting process who has said he'll veto any plan that emerges from LATFOR.
The Senate Democrats also distributed a fact sheet of court cases to back up their argument that adding a 63rd member would be unconstitutional -- including a 2001 memo prepared by Mark Burgeson, a Senate GOP staffer working for LATFOR. The memo became a piece of evidence in Rodriguez vs. Pataki, in which plaintiffs argued that the 2002 redistricting tipped the scales in favor of upstate. A three-judge panel ultimately approved the new lines.
In the memo, Burgeson spitballs the idea of expanding to a 63-seat chamber as a way of boosting the GOP's standing on Long Island. "I have previously stated my contention that the only reason to go to 63 is to strengthen the Long Island delegation by combining politically undesirable areas in the extra district," he writes.
Burgeson is once again working for LATFOR on the latest round of redistricting.
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