Griffo Wants To Restore Balance In State Senate

State Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome, has introduced legislation in the state Senate that he says will restore balance to Senate politics by giving each county one member of the state Senate.

S. 2047 would amend the state Constitution to reduce the number of Senate districts from 63 to 62, with each county then electing one senator. Assembly districts would not be affected.

Unlike the U.S. Senate, which gives each state two senators regardless of a state’s respective population, the New York state Senate is apportioned according to population under the “One Man, One Vote” standard created by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Lucas v. Colorado General Assembly in 1964. Apportioning the Senate by population, Griffo reasons, disempowers residents who don’t live in or around New York City.

Griffo’s legislation is co-sponsored by fellow Republicans Daphne Jordan of Halfmoon and Thomas F. O’Mara of Big Flats. It has been referred to the Senate’s Judiciary Committee, where a request was made to the state Attorney General’s Office for an opinion. Companion legislation has also been introduced in the state Assembly (A.6461) by Assemblyman Mark Walczyk, R-Watertown, and was referred to the Assembly’s Governmental Operations Committee and referred to the state Attorney General for an opinion.

“Many in Upstate New York, and rightfully so, are concerned that their voices won’t be heard now that all levels of state government are controlled by those with Downstate and New York City Interests,” Griffo said. “As such, we must continue to seek out balance between all regions of our state to ensure that all voices are being heard and that all needs are being met. Our legislation would help us to do that by creating a more equitable distribution of legislative representatives, leading to a better and less parochial government for all New Yorkers. Legislators like Assemblyman Walczyk understand how important it is to find balance, and it is a pleasure to partner with him on this effort to provide Upstate New York with more of a voice when it comes to decisions affecting the entire state.”

While the legislation proposed by Griffo and Walczak would bring greater voice to Upstate New York in the unlikely event it becomes law, it would also prevent the situation seen in Western New York in which several counties are without a voice in the state Senate after the resignation of state Sen. Catharine Young to take a job with Cornell University. Area residents are waiting to see if Gov. Andrew Cuomo calls for a special election for the 57th Senate District seat.