Despite the state's anemic population growth, the Senate's top Republican said his legislative chamber is likely to grow by one senator, to a total of 63, during this year's redistricting process.
Senate Democrats immediately dismissed the move as an illegal bid by the Republicans merely to maintain their thin majority. Senate Republicans pushed through a similar one-seat increase 10 years ago to help keep control of the Senate.
Proposed maps of Assembly and Senate district lines drawn by a legislative panel are due out in the next couple of weeks; the process could end up being decided by the courts.
Senate Republicans want the redistricting process -- a once-a-decade exercise that comes after release of the U.S. census -- to create legislative boundaries favorable to maintaining their remaining power base in Albany. Democrats control all statewide offices, as well as the Assembly.
"There's a good chance that they'll go to 63," Senate Majority Leader Dean G. Skelos of Nassau County said of the current 62-member Senate. Skelos appeared in a brief gaggle with reporters Tuesday at the Capitol. An adviser cut off the questioning before Skelos provided an explanation for the growth in the Senate.
"This confirms that the current process cannot provide a fair result," said Sen. Michael N. Gianaris of Queens, who heads the State Democratic Senate Campaign Committee. "To tear up the State Constitution in order to maintain political power is despicable but, unfortunately, not unexpected."
-- Tom Precious