There are three proposals needing voters yeas or nays on the flipside of this election’s ballot come Tuesday, November 4. As usual, each seems fairly innocuous, represents major legislative struggles over the past two years, and have deep-seated passions for and against them.
Proposal 1 is a New York Redistricting Commission Amendment, which aims to create a new redistricting commission to establish state senate, assembly and congressional districts through a very specific formula for that commission’s ten-member makeup. According to the proposal, two members would be appointed by the temporary president of the senate, two by the speaker of the assembly, two by the minority leader of the senate, two by the minority leader of the assembly, and two by those eight legislatively appointed members from neither of the state’s two major parties. Furthermore, the new commission would be required to hold 12 public hearings during the process of redistricting and if the legislature were to reject the commission’s plan twice, the legislature would amend the commission’s plan as deemed necessary.
The biggest argument over the measure in the legislature came over whether the proposed redistricting committee should be called “independent” or “nonpartisan,” with the latter winning out via a judge’s ruling.
Those not happy with the redistricting proposal worry that it’s too little too late, and keeps the redistricting efforts within the legislature instead of allowing the citizenry and electorate in on such crucial decision-making.
To print or not?
Proposal 2 is a New York Electronic Bills Amendment that would change the state constitution to finally allow for all legislative bills to be distributed in an electronic form rather than in paper copies, as is still done. Current laws, written in 1938, require all bills to be printed and renders any electronic means of distribution to be unconstitutional. The new bill further notes that all such electronic bills must be readable at legislators’ desks, with it up to them whether to print or not. On average, it has been noted, 19 million pages get printed every two year legislative season. In proposing the constitutional amendment, legislators spoke about catching up with the times and environmental responsibility.
Wiring up the schools
Proposal 3 is the New York Bonds for School Technology Act, which seeks to authorize the state comptroller to issue and sell bonds up to the amount of $2 billion for use by the state’s school system in the purchasing of new “technology equipment and facilities, such as interactive whiteboards, computer servers, desktop and laptop computers, tablets and high-speed broadband or wireless internet;” the construction and modernizing of facilities to accommodate pre-kindergarten programs “and replacing classroom trailers with permanent instructional space;” and the installation of new high-tech security features in school buildings. It comes from a proposal made by the governor in his State of the State speech last January tied to his new Smart Schools Commission made up of Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Google, Geoffrey Canada, President and CEO of Harlem Children’s Zone, and Constance Evelyn, Superintendent of the Auburn School District. The bond is tied to the pushing towards universal pre-K and statewide implementation of the Common Core curriculum.
Opponents to the bond have come primarily from the right, but have included those who worry that the new computer equipment purchased would be obsolete before the bond is retired, objected to its ties to the implementation of the Common Core, or highlighted the potential conflicts represented with having the Google chairman on the proposal’s accompanying implementation commission.