EWN This Morning Responds To Controversial Overnight Votes In Albany

March 15, 2012 Updated Mar 15, 2012 at 9:06 AM EDT

By WKBW News

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March 15, 2012 Updated Mar 15, 2012 at 9:06 AM EDT

Is Redistricting Plan Racist?

By WKBW

Some Democrats are calling a new redistricting plan racist.
ALBANY, N.Y. (WKBW)- A big controversy as lawmakers pass a flurry of bills to set new state legislative districts. A major debate in the State Senate just after midnight Thursday morning caused Senate Democrats to walk out of chambers, refusing to vote.

Those new districts lines were drawn up by a legislative task force made up of Assembly Democrats and Senate Republicans. Several Democrats said the new districts split up some urban areas with heavy minority communities and give republicans an advantage. Some Senate Democrats said it is a racist plan that reminds them of things done in the South in early 50’s and 60’s.

Republican Senator Mike Ranzenhofer, who represents a portion of Western New York, said that remark is ridiculous.

“I think under the plan, they satisfied all federal and state requirements. As a matter of fact, because of the loss of population, many of the minority groups were strengthened so I think the opposite is the case,” Ranzenhofer said.

It’s important to note that lawmakers voted on new state districts. It does not appear they will take any action on new U.S. Congressional districts. They said they would leave that decision up to the courts.

Governor Cuomo vowed to veto any redistricting plan he deemed “too political”. Republicans were able to soften the deal by requiring an independent council and not politicians to make any further changes to districts. That may be enough to convince the governor as some sources said he poised to sign the bill into law.

A Discussion Begins to Legalize Gambling
By Jaclyn Asztalos

Albany, N.Y. (WKBW) – The process is underway to change the Constitution to all allow gambling in New York State and it’s a heated topic with legislators.

Currently, gambling is only allowed on Indian land but an agreement started the discussion to change that law. Republican Senator Mike Razenhofer, who represents a portion of Western New York, said Governor Cuomo proposed this bill.

Cuomo said that legalizing casino gambling would bring jobs and tourism to the area, while also generating billions of dollars for the state. Ranzenhofer said this decision Wednesday night, is the first step toward casino legalization but there is still along way to go before the law is changed.

“Its' a deal called the Governor Program Bill, introduced by the Governor. It starts the conversation about casino gambling in New York State. There will be a lot more discussion this year and next year. Ultimately, the public will have the final say,” Ranzenhofer said.

The agreement calls for no more than seven privately owned commercial casinos in New York State. Now, it is up to the Assembly and the Senate to pass legislation to change the State Constitution but ultimately it is the people’s decision. The matter can go up for public referendum as early as next year.