Reducing the amount of legislative districts appeared stuck on murky ground, but it has abruptly moved into the fast lane.
Albany County Legislature Chairman Shawn Morse and Majority Leader Frank Commisso introduced a local law Thursday night, Dec. 4, during a Democratic caucus. The legislature will set the date for a public hearing on the proposal at its meeting tonight.
Hundreds of revisions were recommended in Charter Review Commission’s report, but reducing the size of the county legislature from 39 to 25 members has largely remained the most contentious proposal.
Several urban community leaders previously spoke against the downsize, claiming it would reduce the amount of representation. Republican legislators have said cost savings must be tied to the reduction, with staffs or expenses not bloating to take on the larger districts. Democrats never presented a unified position.
Morse could not be reached for comment.
County Executive Daniel McCoy said he has been calling for the commission’s recommendations to be implemented since its report was released in January, including reducing legislative districts.
“All along, Democratic legislative leadership has had no wish to implement this,” McCoy said in a prepared statement. “Now that we are in the trial process and possible settlement discussions, and only a few days after Tuesday night’s legislative debacle, the majority legislative leadership is looking to derail any further settlement attempts.”
Democrats could not secure enough votes during the legislature’s special meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 2, to approve a settlement in a voting rights lawsuit against the county, arguing the recent redistricting was unfair to minority voters.
McCoy had sued the legislature over its authority to even negotiate and reach settlement, which apparently gave some legislators cold feet on the agreement.
Even if the county legislature approved the local law to reduce its size, voters would have the final say on its reduction.