Griffo and Walczyk: Legislation Ensures Balance in State Government and Focus on Upstate New York

With many New Yorkers expressing legitimate concerns with a lack of focus on Upstate New York during the coronavirus pandemic, Sen. Joseph Griffo, R-C-I-Rome, and Assemblyman Mark Walczyk, R-C-I-Watertown, today continued their advocacy for legislation they have introduced that would provide for more geographic balance to state government.

As members of the downstate legislative majorities naturally focus on the needs of their own constituents, many issues critical to the prosperity of upstate New York have been routinely ignored over the past few years.

To address this unbalance, Sen. Griffo and Assemblyman Walcyzk’s bill (S2047/A6461) would amend the state Constitution and award each county in the state with a single senator to represent it in the Legislature, reducing the current number of Senate districts from 63 to 62. Assembly seats would continue to be apportioned based on population.

If the legislation is passed by the Assembly and Senate and signed into law, New York State’s government would more closely mirror the setup of the federal government where congressional districts are determined by population, but each state has two senators. This allows all 50 states in the Union to have an equal voice regardless of the size of their population.

The bill is currently in the Senate’s Judiciary Committee and the Assembly’s Governmental Operations Committee.

The two legislators hope that a more equitable distribution of legislative representatives would lead to a better and less parochial government for all New Yorkers.

"The goal of a two-house legislature is to make sure every person in every area is represented. Because New York City and its immediate surroundings contain such a disproportionate amount of our state's population, the unintended consequence has been to effectively disempower virtually any state resident outside of the immediate vicinity of New York City," Assemblyman Walczyk said. "By giving a guaranteed vote per county in the Senate, we'd break the tides of partisanship and the oppression of the majority from the population center. You put me in the Assembly to propose common sense, good-government reforms that will help protect every New Yorker's way of life; and this bill achieves just that."

“People are rightfully frustrated with the authoritarian approach demonstrated Governor and a lack of checks and balances, particularly during this recent public health crisis,” Sen. Griffo said. “Many, especially in upstate, are discouraged by the unwillingness shown by the downstate-dominated legislative majorities to counteract and confront the actions of the administration. Recent gubernatorial actions and focuses have once again demonstrated the need for balance in state government. While I recognize that there are a number of significant legal and other obstacles in the way, I believe that our bill is what is needed to ensure that all voices are being heard and that all regions get the attention they deserve.”