This year's legislative session that ended back in June was marred by serious disappointment. Despite US Attorney Preet Bahara's revelation that there has been a crime wave happening in the halls of the Capitol right under our eyes, there wasn't enough will in the legislature to do anything to fix it.
In response, New York's powerful Governor Cuomo formed the Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption. At the time, he said, "This session, I put forward the most comprehensive and aggressive legislative package Albany has seen in decades to address the corrosive influence of money in elections, strengthen prosecutors’ ability to fight corruption, increase penalties against those who violate the public trust, and give voters more access to the ballot box. From the beginning, I said I would not accept a watered-down approach to cleaning up Albany and that the Legislature must either pass this legislative package or I would empanel an investigative commission tasked with accomplishing these same goals to achieve reform."
On the day after Election Day, Karen Scharff, Citizen Action of New York's Executive Director sent a message to Citizen Action's members. One paragraph was particularly insightful:
As progressives, our best weapon in politics is our values – because when it comes down to it, our values aren’t progressive or conservative, Democratic or Republican. Our values are human values. And when we don’t hide from our values, we win.
Turns out she was right. Yesterday's Siena poll confirms it.
When it comes to state budget ideas, nearly three-quarters of voters oppose cutting education by $1 billion to help close the deficit, more than two-thirds oppose cutting Medicaid and health care by $1 billion, however, increasing income tax rates on million dollar earners has the support of nearly three-quarters of voters.
New Yorkers don't want cuts to the services that they need. They don't want cuts to education. They don't want cuts to health care.
Ending the undemocratic practice of prison-based gerrymandering is, technically, a two-part process. When redistricting happens, first, people in prison must be removed from the Census population data because the Census counts them as residents of the district in which they are incarcerated. Second, people in prison must be added back to their home districts.
Earlier this week, the US Census Bureau announced they will move up the release of local prison population data to May 2011, making it possible for states that hold their redistricting process in the year after the Census is taken to remove prison populations from district counts.
As the New York Times editorialized this morning, this is a critical step in the right direction toward ending prison-based gerrymandering.
The principle of 'one person, one vote,' is a sacred component of our democracy in the United States. But, here in New York, when it comes to counting people in prison, representation is anything but equal.
Last Thursday (January 28th), we kicked-off a new campaign to end prison-based gerrymandering, the undemocratic system for using people in prison to inflate population counts.
At the campaign kick-off, Rev. Al Sharpton said that this is "the voter rights and civil rights issue of the year in the state of New York."
Here's the problem: right now, the US Census Bureau counts people in prison as being residents of the area in which they are incarcerated.
Representative Scott Murphy’s vote against the House health care reform bill last November is disappointing - and puzzling. He has repeatedly and publicly proclaimed his support of a strong public option, which goes along with his focus on cutting cost, fraud, and waste and on improving quality. And, he connected his past role as a small business owner to the importance of health care reform.
Yesterday, we launched a new community petition website, StandUpScott.org, to allow folks to remind Representative Murphy of his campaign promise to support the health care reform bill. Rep. Murphy's spokesman responded with a statement calling for cost containment and quality improvements. He’s worried that the bill doesn’t contain cost for small businesses and individuals.
But, the House health care reform bill does just that.
Tomorrow's State of the State will include a proposal for a strong campaign finance reform package, including public financing of elections. The New York Times has the scoop. While the article suggests several motives that may be driving Governor Paterson's surprising announcement, it's quite clear that enactment of public financing of elections is what this state needs, and the Governor's announcement needs to be taken by us - progressives - as a call to arms to finally get the kind of reform we've been fighting to win for years.
Last year, the Assembly passed a public financing of elections bill. The State Senate came very close to passing a very strong public financing bill. The bill was about to pass out of the elections committee when, that's right, the June 8th coup went down. Down also went public financing in the Senate for 2009.
Whatever his motives, with the Governor's announcement, and the Assembly's consistent passage of public financing, chances of the bill passing in 2010 lie with the State Senate.