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Study For Upstate Separation Requested

An Albany-area Republican state senator wants state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli to establish a working group to study the idea of separating New York into two states.

Daphne Jordan, R-Half Moon, introduced S.3814 in the Senate on Feb. 15. The legislation has been assigned to the Senate’s Finance Committee. There does not appear to be a companion bill in the state Assembly.

“The state of New York is a very large and very diverse place, with many distinct cultural, economic, and historical regions,” Jordan states in the legislative justification accompanying the bill. “However, one set of distinctions is abundantly clear, both on paper and in the minds of New Yorkers — that there is an “upstate” region and a “downstate” region, and that these two regions have extremely divergent political and social views. As these views continue to diverge, calls for these two regions to “part ways“, so to speak, have grown louder and louder. Many, both upstate and downstate, have questioned whether or not these regions would be better off separately.”

The legislation uses the minimum wage legislation definition of downstate as Nassau, Rockland, Suffolk and Westchester counties as well as New York City. The minimum wage law is the most prominent statutory dividing line between upstate and downstate, Jordan said.

The working group would include the state comptroller and a his or her designee, two members appointed by the comptroller; the attorney general and his or her designee; two members appointed by the attorney general; three members appointed by the governor; one member appointed by the speaker of the assembly; one member appointed by the temporary president of the senate; one member appointed by the minority leader of the assembly; one member appointed by the minority leader of the senate; and two members appointed by the New York State Association of Counties.

The “separate states working group” would be tasked with studying the economic ramifications over the short term and long term of separating upstate and downstate New York into two separate states, including, but not limited to, economic opportunity for both areas; the legal ramifications of separating upstate and downstate New York into two separate states; the general up-front cost associated with separating upstate and downstate New York into two separate states, exclusive of the long term economic ramifications, including, but not limited to the cost of creating two new state governments, the separation of the physical and organizational infrastructure, the cost of settling land disputes; the constitutional steps necessary to separate upstate and downstate New York into two separate states; and any constitutional precedents in the United States for dividing a state into two separate states.

When the study is finished, the working group would deliver a report of its findings to the governor, speaker of the assembly, temporary president of the senate, the minority leader of the assembly, the minority leader of the senate and the comptroller.

“This bill would help to resolve these questions and would inform the Governor and Legislature on how to proceed,” the legislative justification states. “This legislation would create a working group that would study the short and long term economic ramifications, including economic opportunities, of splitting the state. It would also examine the legal ramifications and precedents for dividing the State into two parts, and would determine the “up front cost” of doing so, such as creating two new state government apparatuses.”

There have been several calls over the past few years to split New York state into two states, including one from a conservative group that began pushing to split Upstate New York into New Amsterdam. There have also periodically been pieces of legislation introduced in the state Legislature, includng recent legislation by state Sen. Joseph Robach in 2009, a Greece Republican who wanted to allow counties to ask voters in a referendum if they supported the division of New York into two separate states.

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