New York voters will also have the opportunity to cast ballots on two proposed amendments to the state constitution, as well as on a proposal to borrow $2 billion for schools, primarily to pay for educational technology and related expenditures. Note that these measures will appear on the back of the ballot.
The full text of each proposal, as well as some background information, is available on the State Board of Elections web site. Capital New York recently published a guide to the three ballot questions.
Proposal 1 – Revising the State’s Redistricting Procedure
This proposal would changes the procedure currently used to draw voting district lines for Assembly, Senate and Congressional districts.
A joint Senate and Assembly commission currently draws these lines every 10 years based on updated census data. If this measure is approved, legislative districts would be drawn by a 10 member panel made up of eight Democratic and Republican appointees of the Senate and Assembly minority and majority leaders, plus two members appointed by the eight who cannot be enrolled in a political party.
Supporters of the measure say that the creation of the new redistricting commission will result in greater competition in state legislative and congressional elections, because the new commission would be more independent of state lawmakers than the current one.
Opponents argue that the change would, in effect, codify the current redistricting process, in which Albany lawmakers unilaterally control the process, enabling them to engineer districts that let incumbents coast to victory. They prefer a system in which the entity that draws the state’s legislative lines not be appointed by legislators, who have a direct stake in how those lines are drawn.
Proposal 2 – Permitting Electronic Distribution on State Legislative Bills
This proposal would authorize state legislation to be published electronically. Under current law, bills must be printed and placed on the desks of state legislators for at least three days before the Legislature votes on it, unless the Governor provides a “message of necessity.”
According to one proponent, this measure would save the state $53 million annually in printing costs. There does not appear to be any organized opposition to this proposal.
Proposal 3 — The Smart Schools Bonds Act of 2014
This measure would authorize the state to borrow up to $2 billion for schools to acquire learning technology equipment (such as interactive whiteboards, computers and servers; broadband and wireless connectivity; high tech security) and to improve educational facilities to provide more instructional space.
Gov. Cuomo, who first proposed the borrowing in his January 2014 State of the State address, argues that the Bond Act will “enhance teaching and learning through technology,” provide students with critical 21st century skills, and enable long-term investments in full-day pre-kindergarten through the construction of new pre-kindergarten classroom space.
Opponents say that the state should not undertake a long-term borrowing to pay for classroom technology, which generally has a shorter useful life than the bonding period. They point out that the education community did not request this bonding, and argue that technology purchases should be funded through annual school appropriations.