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Pataki raises district concerns

Albany --
Governor discusses proposed redrawing with leaders but is mum on issue of veto

By JAMES M. ODATO, Capitol bureau
First published: Thursday, April 18, 2002

Gov. George Pataki declined to reveal whether he will veto redistricting bills passed by the Legislature, but said he has brought concerns to the attention of legislative leaders.

"I've expressed with the Assembly and Senate leaders concerns I have about the district lines and asked them to take a look,'' Pataki said Wednesday. "They both said they would. Whether or not there are going to be any changes, who could predict?''

Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno responded that he has no plans to vote on another redistricting bill. He did say some tinkering could occur.

Bruno said Pataki had raised concerns about the Senate's failure to create districts that would represent Dominicans in Brooklyn and Orthodox Jews in Washington Heights in upper Manhattan. Bruno said the Dominican district could be created in the next redistricting plan in 10 years. The district with a majority of Orthodox Jews is a possibility sooner, he said. For instance, he said, the Legislature could engage in chapter amendments -- essentially adjusting parts of the redistricting bill.

"We're not doing anything different right now,'' Bruno said.

Aspokesman for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said it is up to Pataki to veto or pass the bill by the Monday deadline. "We don't know what he's done with the bill yet, so how can you say? We don't know if he's going to veto or pass it,'' said Bryan Franke, the spokesman.

Meanwhile, the League of Women Voters, Common Cause and New York Public Interest Research Group called on Pataki to use his power to change the redistricting process and insist that the Legislature appoint non-partisan panels to draw the legislative lines.

The bill before Pataki calls for 212 seats, including 62 -- up from 61 -- for the Senate. It was drawn by the Senate Republican and Assembly Democratic majorities after negotiations with their minority members and comment at public hearings.

However, they resulted in just 23 Assembly and eight Senate districts where both parties' candidates would have a competitive chance in an election, said Blair Horner of NYPIRG.