MAYVILLE - County legislators took steps recently which will allow them to try to downsize the legislature in time for the coming 2011 elections.
In 2009's races, several Republicans received backing from the county Independence Party on the promise that they would work to try to downsize the legislature.
Since that time, Democrats have made multiple downsizing proposals - all of which have been defeated by the full legislature.
Bob Scudder, R-Fredonia, speaks at a recent Chautauqua County Legislature meeting.
P-J photo by Nicholas L. Dean
Each time such proposals have come to vote, Independence Party-backed Republicans have explained that their caucus would prefer to wait for the new census numbers before downsizing. Other times, the Republicans questioned why Democrats want to cut to 15 and 17, when 19 and 21 could be just as viable options.
At Wednesday's meeting, one such Republican, Bob Scudder, R-Fredonia, spoke positively of the legislature taking action to try to downsize in advance of the 2011 elections.
"I'm encouraged by this resolution because this does give us the possibility," Scudder said of scheduling a hearing on April 20. "From what I'm hearing from my district, they want to downsize - and they would like to do it for this year's election. So I'm encouraged by this and I'll be voting in favor of it so that that can become a possibility."
"From what I'm hearing from my district, they want to downsize - and they would like to do it for this year's election."
County Legislator Bob Scudder
One of the legislature's closer downsizing votes came this past July in the city of Dunkirk.
Democrats proposed taking the legislature to 17 members. The proposal ultimately saw defeat in a 14 to 10 vote along party lines, with Scot Stutzman, I-Jamestown, voting in favor of the proposal. However, just before the vote, a Republican legislator attempted to change the proposed local law.
Instead of taking the legislature to 17 members, George Borrello, R-Irving, proposed amending the local law to a downsizing to 19 members. Maria Kindberg, D-Jamestown, seconded the amendment.
For a few minutes during the discussion which followed, it seemed like Borrello's change might pass the legislature. Unlike the local law itself, Borrello's change needed only a simple majority. However, in the end, the amendment to the local law failed in a 12 to 12 vote - with Borrello and Scudder joining Stutzman and the Democrats.
Had Borrello successfully changed the number from 17 to 19 though, the subsequent vote on the local law would still likely have failed to get the necessary two-thirds support of the legislature. But as two Independence Party-backed Republicans, they did vote to downsize the legislature.
The five-member reapportionment committee created by the legislature has less than two weeks to meet and draw lines for new county districts. The commission's final plan, with all lines drawn, will have to be mailed out by April 8 in order to be considered at a special April 20 meeting of the legislature. If legislators miss those deadlines, a downsized legislature will not be a reality in the 2011 elections and will have to wait until 2013.