Now, there are worrisome signs that they may break their word.
Mr. Skelos lately seems to be going out of his way not to say that he and his conference will pass legislation that will create a more independent redistricting process before — and this is the key — new lines are drawn. Even Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who many considered an opponent of this reform, says he is willing to come up with a bill that would make it happen this year.
We’re hardly the only ones suspicious that all that fanfare of signing the pledge was just a ploy to get elected and regain the Senate majority. Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch, whose organization, New York Uprising, promoted the redistricting pledge, declared after a meeting with Mr. Skelos on Tuesday, “He is not going to honor his commitment.”
Mr. Skelos did issue a statement later that gave Mr. Koch some hope. We are not so encouraged.
Here are the relevant parts of his statement:
“It is our intention to pursue a redistricting reform measure that will meet the NY Uprising pledge.
“As the State Constitution gives the Legislature the sole authority to draw district lines, the strongest plan would amend the constitution to establish a process that is truly fair, bipartisan and constitutionally sound.”
Where to begin?
The statement is irrelevant. Not everyone agrees the Legislature holds sole authority here. Even so, it could satisfy the issue by retaining limited power to tinker with an independent board’s proposal.
The statement is misleading. Amending the Constitution takes approval by two consecutive legislatures, and a public vote. That couldn’t happen at least until 2013. This round of redistricting will be long over, which means a constitutional reform would have no practical effect until after the 2020 Census. That’s a decade or more of living with the Legislature’s infamously gerrymandered districts, contorted for no other real reason than to let the majorities in both chambers pick their voters and keep their power.
The statement is evasive. The pledge itself didn’t actually cite when redistricting reform would take effect. It was clear, though, from all the supporting documentation that it referred to the upcoming reapportionment.
This does not have to be an either-or situation. The Legislature could start the lengthy process of a constitutional amendment while also fashioning a temporary solution to employ now.
Nor can the rest of the Senate Republican conference hide behind Mr. Skelos. The other members are obliged to do the right thing, regardless of how much or how little value Mr. Skelos places on his own word.
The Senate GOP should also consider this: Break this pledge, and you may not be able to find enough voters who trust you to fill even one district in this state.