Some New York lawmakers are fed up with the power disparity held by Democratic leaders, and they've hatched a plan to neutralize the clear power imbalance.
What's the background?
Although New York often gets a bad rap for being overwhelmingly liberal, much of the Empire State is not actually progressive.
But because the state's population is concentrated in New York City and the surrounding area, the voice of upstate and rural residents often goes unheard.
What is the plan?
New York lawmakers, including state Sen. James Seward (R) and state Rep. John Salka (R), are looking to even the playing field.
They are co-sponsoring a plan to split New York into three autonomous regions, Gannett journalist Julie Sherwood reported.
The three proposed regions are:
- The New York Region, including the five boroughs of New York City
- The Montauk Region, including Long Island, Westchester, and Rockland
- The New Amsterdam Region, encompassing the upstate
John Bergener Jr., chairman of the Divide New York State Caucus, has said the plan would strip the state government in Albany of "90 percent of its power," reducing the governor — currently Democrat Andrew Cuomo — to essentially a figurehead, similar to the British monarch.
The plan would establish bi-cameral legislatures in each region, whose regional senators and assembly members would also serve in the New York State Assembly.
In theory, the division would create a power balance.
"New Amsterdam & Montauk regional governments would have the power to repeal these unnecessary NYS regulations and bad laws that are killing jobs," Divide New York State Caucus explains, Sherwood reported. "While the New York regional government could enact those changes it wants for NYC only that upstate currently blocks."
Seward said in a statement:
Downstate domination of the state legislature has become a serious problem, and the division of New York into multiple regions would help restore our upstate voice and values. The SAFE Act, bail reform, and farm policies, are just a few recent areas where New York City based politicians have strong-armed their beliefs into law over the objection of the rest of the state. As we work to rebound following the COVID-19 outbreak there are a number of upstate priorities — increased broadband, help for small businesses, lower taxes — that are not high on the list of downstate officials. Clearly, the time is right to thoroughly explore the idea of dividing New York State and I certainly hope that a majority of my colleagues and the voters will agree.
What are the legal roadblocks?
The bill has been introduced in both New York State Assembly chambers — SB 5416 and AB 5498 — but it currently remains in committee.
However, to become official, the New York state constitution would need to be amended.
Divide New York State Caucus said that splitting New York into multiple new states is "preferable" to creating autonomous zones within the Empire State, but would be a more difficult task because it would need the approval of the U.S. Congress.