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Why do we even have a State Senate?

Today's top editorial characterizes Western New York's State Senate delegation as the weakest in memory. Wi th  our new system you can comment directly after the online version of that editorial, so I won't reopen that thread here (although, of course, in the anarchy of the blogosphere you may).

And before some of you just can't resist the usual knee-jerk comment about how can we criticize when we endorsed these folks, here's the obvious answer: Because they didn't run in a vacuum. When we endorsed an incumbent, it was because we thought he or she was the better choice. And often the challengers just  weren't up to the challenge; blame the political parties, which often don't field really attractive candidates in races they can't win (due to the incumbency-protection system the Legislature has erected), and often don't really fund the challengers they do field. So why do we endorse at all? Because we've always felt voters are faced with these choices so we ought to offer a recommendation. But, given recent history, I'm seriously rethinking that.

But back to the Senate, and the deeper question there: Why do we even have one?  In Congress, House seats are apportioned according to population but each state gets two senators no matter what its size, so there's one body based on population and another offering a regional check of that by representing each of the states of the Union separately. In New York, Assembly seats are apportioned according to population -- and so are Senate seats. It's not two per county, it's basically the same as the Assembly, only smaller.

The past argument is that the Republican Senate provided a check on the Democratic Assembly, but that's a circumstance, not a system. And it's not the circumstance now.

So should we change the rules (constitutionally), keep the status quo (and how's that been workin' for you lately), or just abolish the second house and save some money?

-Mike Vogel 


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