Split NY back on the table
Suppose the power of New York’s governor was reduced and instead rivaled that of the Queen of England—basically a figurehead. That’s how the chair of Divide NYS Caucus Inc. describes how an amendment to the state constitution would change the way state government works.
The amendment—based on an old idea of separating upstate and downstate—would split the state into three autonomous regions: The New Amsterdam Region (upstate); the New York Region (New York City); and the Montauk Region (Long Island and Rockland/Westchester).
Counties in the Rochester/Finger Lakes region and Southern Tier would fall into the New Amsterdam Region.
State Sen. Pam Helming, R-Canandaigua, and Assemblyman Brian Manktelow, R-Lyons, are among the co-sponsors of legislation popular among upstate Republicans who are critical of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Democratic Party-controlled Legislature.
The creation of autonomous regions would strip the current centralized state government of “90 percent of its power,” transferring it to the regions, said John Bergener Jr., chair of the Divide NYS Caucus, a statewide political organization. To comply with the U.S. Constitution, the state would still have a governor but with political power about equal to “the queen of England’s,” Bergener said last fall as the caucus held meetings across the state pitching the idea.
Each region would have a regional Senate and regional Assembly, whose members would also serve in the state Legislature. According to Divide NYS, while splitting New York into separate states “is preferable,” it is a much more difficult process, requiring U.S. Congressional approval.
Creating autonomous regions bypasses Washington and relies on amending the state constitution. That requires the amendment to pass twice in both houses of the Legislature, during separate terms. If that happens, it would trigger a referendum by state voters.
What is the status?
Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt, R-North Tonawanda, introduced the bill last year. The legislation — Senate Bill S5416 and Assembly Bill A5498 — is before the Judiciary committees in each chamber. Neither bill is currently scheduled to come before the full Senate or Assembly, a necessary next step.
According to Divide NYS Caucus, support is growing for the proposal that is more likely to succeed than previous, like-minded plans.
“New Amsterdam & Montauk regional governments would have the power to repeal these unnecessary NYS regulations and bad laws that are killing jobs,” contends the organization. “While the New York regional government could enact those changes it wants for NYC only that upstate currently blocks … Since Congress is unlikely, in the foreseeable future, to give the Northeast two more US Senate seats a new state would require; our autonomous regions method makes more sense financially and is more likely to succeed.”
Includes reporting by The Hornell Evening Tribune.