Cats and dogs; Republicans and Democrats

The state Assembly has long been a Democratic stronghold. It’s easy to understand why. Simply put, the state has more Democrats than Republicans and once the Assembly fell into Democratic hands, the districts were drawn by the victorious Democrats so that they had a better chance of winning.

This Democratic advantage continued until the Democrats had an overwhelming veto-proof majority. As a result, Republicans in the Assembly literally became an endangered species. Meanwhile in the state Senate, Republicans have been vainly fighting a desperate rear guard action to hold onto power. They, too, have used their computers and political operatives to draw districts in which they had the best chance of winning. It has become a tug of war, with the Republican senators holding on for dear life. Their majority is down to a few tenuous votes. They now have huge problems including the indictment of Dean Skelos, their leader. If Hillary Clinton runs for the presidency, there is every indication that the Republicans will be tossed from power. Then the Democrats will draw the districts and the Republicans will have lost their majority, probably forever.

All of this explanation is necessary if you hope to make any sense of what is happening in Albany. Let’s face it — Republicans are closer to those who hold the economic levers than Democrats are. The Democrats have had to make some necessary accommodations with those who have the most money. If you get a real estate issue, like tax breaks for builders who generously give to campaigns, you had better believe that the Republican senators are in a tough spot. They want to help their rich friends and potential contributors but they are also aware that Republican senators in New York City could be wiped out if they were to vote against something like rent stabilization, sometimes called rent control, which allows New York City residents to stay in their apartments. This is called being between a rock and a hard place. As of now, they have come down on the side of the real estate folks. The issue of renewing the rent stabilization laws probably has them quaking in their boots. They owe the real estate guys for all the campaign money but nothing, and I mean nothing, means more to New York City residents than how much they are paying for their apartments. People are literally quitting their jobs and retiring early, so fearful are they of earning too much to qualify for the controls.

It doesn’t stop with rent stabilization. The divide between the “upstate” community and what we call the “city” is enormous. Andrew Cuomo couldn’t catch a break upstate because there the picture is simply desolate when it comes to jobs. Cuomo’s bastion is the city where he wins overwhelmingly. He has to find issues that play well in both places, upstate and down.

For example, this year he pushed a popular program that would try to put a stop to sexual assault on college campuses. The original program was anything but artful. We were told that at each stage a consensual couple had to stop and ask each other whether it was OK to proceed. That was subsequently modified. The governor has daughters and he was doing the right thing. The number of sexual assaults on campuses is just too great to be allowed to continue, but there is such a thing as creating a greater problem. Men and women both need protection. Since the time of Joseph in the Bible there have been women who have made unfair accusations against men who, it turned out, were innocent. The bill that emerged in the Legislature was a fair one offering protections to those who have been accused. This was a good example of compromises which are made despite political party affiliation. What we need is a lot more of that.
Originally published in the Legislative Gazette, 6/22/15
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