Groups say governor’s redistricting bill is constitutional

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A coalition of good-government groups pushing for non-partisan redistricting is refuting claims by Senate Republicans that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s legislation to set up this process is unconstitutional. ReShapeNY released a legal memo written by the international law firm Weil, Gotshal and Manges LLP to back up its argument.

The memo said the Legislature has the authority to delegate its powers, and doing so would not violate the separation of powers between different branches of government because lawmakers wouldn’t be granting their authority to another branch of government. The state has to redraw districts every 10 years based on the U.S. Census. Senate Republicans, who hold a 32-30 majority, said they want to adopt a process through a constitutional amendment. But that process could not be completed in time for redistricting next year.

“With the unprecedented and growing support for redistricting reform from both parties in the Assembly and the endorsement of the distinguished international law firm Weil, Gotshal and Manges that the Cuomo bill is constitutional, it is clear that redistricting reform should move forward,” Dick Dadey, executive director of Citizens Union, said in a statement.

“The Assembly has indicated its strong support for action in ending partisan gerrymandering, and with the legal hurdles removed, the Senate should also act to end the political manipulation of drawing district boundaries and instead implement a fair and impartial process in time for the 2012 elections,” he said.

Under the Cuomo bill, the commission would propose district boundaries and the Legislature would consider or vote on them. In passing the legislation, lawmakers would spell out the criteria and process for drawing lines, the memo said. The Legislature could adopt the commission’s maps or reject them and create its own.

Members of the Senate GOP, which has a 32-30 majority over Democrats, pledged during last year’s campaign that they would support non-partisan redistricting. In the Assembly, which is controlled by Democrats, 89 members have signed on to Cuomo’s bill. That includes 60 percent of all Democrats and 57 percent of all Republicans, according to ReShapeNY, which has compiled the data.

ReShapeNY includes Citizens Union, the League of Women Voters and the New York Public Interest Research Group. It has support from more than 30 organizations.

This is the Weil, Gotshal and Manges LLP memo:

WeilGotshal _Manges_memo_on_constitutionality_of_Cuomo_bill_FINAL

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