Saturday, April 28, 2012

Court of Appeals hears constitutional challenge of GOP plan for new seat

A lower-court judge called it "disturbing," but jurists on the state's highest court were skeptical that there was anything unconstitutional about how Republicans arrived at their decision to upsize the state Senate to 63 members.

Democrats in the chamber sued the majority Republicans in January, alleging the GOP had decided to add an extra seat — which runs from Amsterdam to Kingston, cleaving Albany County in half — purely for partisan advantage.

All along, political sources said, the Republicans tailored the seat for Assemblyman George Amedore, a wealthy homebuilder from Rotterdam, whose win would buttress the GOP's bare one-seat majority in the upper chamber.

It's the linchpin of the Senate's new political map, drawn once a decade after a new Census is released. If the seven judges of the state Court of Appeals throw out the map, the tensely partisan redistricting process would be sent — literally — back to the drawing board.

"This is earth-shattering," Eric Hecker, a lawyer for the Senate Democrats, said Thursday as both sides appeared before the court for oral arguments.

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