Republicans in the Onondaga County Legislature will today attempt to pass a last-minute resolution that would speed up the appointment of a commission to begin redesigning the new legislative districts.
Democrats are crying out loud, calling the resolution a bold attempt by the Republican majority to attempt to manipulate the redistribution process for partisan purposes ahead of the November election.
If approved, Legislative Speaker David Knapp’s resolution R-LaFayette would require the appointment of a six-member Onondaga County redistribution commission by Friday.
The committee is expected to hold its first organizational meeting on October 13, just weeks before the November 2 elections, when the entire 17-member legislature is re-elected.
Republicans have an 11-6 majority in the legislature. Under a September resolution approved along party lines, the majority party would control four of the six committee appointments.
Knapp bypassed the committee process for the resolution, telling Democrats of his intentions on Friday. He will need a rule break for the measure to pass to a vote when the full legislature meets at 1 p.m. today.
Lawmaker Chris Ryan, D-Geddes, has said he may try to table the measure in today’s session.
“It’s too important to rush,” Ryan said in an interview. “So why are we raising this now?” We never had the opportunity to discuss the desirability of this. “
Under the county charter, lawmakers have six months after receiving new census data to convene a redistribution commission. This means that the work of the commission should not start before February. The new constituency lines would come into effect with the 2023 elections.
Ryan and other Democrats argue the commission should be formed after the November election, when it is clear which party will control the County Legislature for the next two years.
As it stands, Republicans could nominate four of the six commission members.
An appointment each is made by the Onondaga County Executive, the Speaker of the Legislature and the leaders of the majority and minority parties in the Legislature.
The commission is also to include the two electoral commissioners of Onondaga County, a Democrat and a Republican.
Ryan previously attempted to pass a measure in July 2020 that would have given the power to designate legislative constituencies to a panel of non-partisan citizens. The resolution failed on a straight-line vote.
Knapp said his resolution had nothing to do with partisan politics. He said it made sense to start the redistribution process now so lawmakers could hear their constituents as they campaign for re-election.
“Now is the perfect time to do it,” Knapp said in an interview. “We want the public’s opinion on what people think. “
He said the redistribution process should be much simpler than it was 10 years ago, when the size of the legislature was reduced by two seats, and 20 years ago, when five seats were removed.
“This time it stays the same,” Knapp said. “We do not envision dramatic changes in the boundaries of the district here. “
Dustin Czarny, the Democratic Election Commissioner, said it was clear to him that Republicans did not want to take any chances with the impending election.
If the legislature turns to the Democrats, both parties would have three people appointed to the commission.
Czarny, speaking as a member of the commission, said what Republicans were trying to do was clear to him.
“There really is no other way to read it,” Czarny said. “They are not subtle. This is an attempt to rush things in case the legislature turns to the Democrats in November. “
He added: “The only absolute reason to do it is to try to pass a partisan card after the election.”
Czarny said it also appears the Republicans are breaking their own promise to hold six public hearings on the redistribution plan, including two in Syracuse.
Knapp’s resolution includes a requirement for four public hearings.
Asked about his resolution, Knapp said the intention was still to hold six public meetings. He said two meetings are already required under the county charter.
Knapp said he was not surprised Democrats were pushing back on his resolution.
“If I were in their shoes, I would try to make political hay with this as well,” he said.
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