The last piece of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s “big ugly” — a massive package of bills including constitutional amendments to create an independent redistricting commission and legalize gambling, a plan for Senate and Assembly district lines, a statute to force lawmakers to pass a redistricting amendment, an expansion of the state’s DNA Databank for most of the state’s convicted felon, a pension reform proposal, and a plan for teacher evaluations — passed after 5 a.m. this morning.
The deal was hastened by a federal court hearing scheduled today in Brooklyn, at which a three-judge panel was to decide whether or not to intervene in drawing Senate and Assembly district lines if the Legislature hadn’t made significant progress drawing its own maps.
The new lines first passed in the Assembly. Six members of the Black/Latino/Asian Caucus in the Assembly voted against it, including caucus chair Karim Camara, who’d spoken out earlier in the day against the lines because of their impact on minority communities. He estimated three or four more caucus members would have voted no too, but had already gone home for the evening.
Assemblyman David Weprin said he voted against the bill “because I signed that redistricting pledge,” referring to a promise to veto any lines not drawn by an independent commission, “even though I have no love for Ed Koch,” Weprin added.
In the Senate, all bills were passed without the aid of Senate Democrats, who staged a walkout when Senate Republicans quashed debate on redistricting after two hours.
“This bill is like Haley’s comet,” said Sen. Daniel Squadron. “It comes around every ten years, and they want to cut off debate after two hours? You don’t cut off Haley’s comet!”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo was expected to sign the lawmaker-drawn district lines, something he has repeatedly promised not to do. Sen. Michael Gianaris, who sponsored a bill to create independent redistricting when he was an Assemblyman, and heads the Senate Democrats’ campaign efforts, said he was disappointed.
“So much for change coming to Albany,” he said. In debate, he told Republican senators they could take their district lines and “shove it.”
The mood grew progressively loopier as the night wore on. Nigh on 1 a.m., the Assembly began to run low on pizzas they’d had delivered for the occasion as the chamber took up a bill to move all New York state primary elections to June 26th. An assembly security guard, asked how many slices he’d had already, answered, “At this hour, anything goes.”
Assemblyman Joe Lentol reportedly treated conference members to a short opera rendition, with some throwing money at him, lawmakers said.
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