by Jeremy Moule
Last night, a committee of the Monroe County Legislature passed legislation to cut funding for the Democratic office and increase it for the Republican office. The legislation now goes to the full Legislature for a vote. But it will almost certainly pass, since the GOP holds a 19 to 10 majority in the body.
Predictably, the legislation passed along party lines in committee, with the three Republican members voting for it and the two Democratic members voting against.
During last night's meeting, Republican Majority Leader Steve Tucciarello reiterated his reasons for introducing the legislation. He says the impetus was the November special election where Republican Joe Carbone unseated incumbent Democrat Stephanie Aldersley.
The funding for each party's office was set based on seats held after the post-redistricting elections in 2011. Tucciarello said the funding should be reallocated each January, just in case the Legislature's makeup changes. And that's what his legislation would do. (Tucciarello doesn't sit on the Agenda/Charter committee, which was considering the legislation, but was asked by the committee chair to speak to it. That's a common practice in all of the Legislature's committees.)
"The current, outdated practice thwarts the will of the electorate," Tucciarello said.
Republican Legislator Jeff McCann said the issue will only become more pressing over the next few years, as legislators term out or leave for other elected offices. McCann has to leave the Legislature at the end of the year because of term limits and at least three other Republican legislators are running for offices in their respective towns. McCann's seat will be filled through an off-year election this year; Republican Kathleen Taylor and Democrat Mike Bertolone are running for the seat, which covers parts of Greece and Parma. But the three other vacancies, should they materialize, would likely be filled by appointments, which would then be subject to special elections in 2014.
Legislators are in the middle of four-year terms — the lengths were set during redistricting — and the next regular election is in 2015.
Democrats said the timing of the legislation is suspect. It amounts to a mid-year, unplanned cut that they interpret as retribution for speaking out on several recent issues.
"It's payback and you know it, gentlemen," Democratic Legislator Mike Patterson said during fiery remarks directed at Republicans.
Democratic Legislator Cynthia Kaleh said the scenario highlighted by McCann was created by Republicans. During redistricting, the Republicans proposed and advanced the installation of four-year terms for all legislators. Previously, legislators had staggered terms, with some serving two-year terms while others served four-year terms. Some Democrats ultimately voted for the terms and the new districts, though first they introduced amendments to restore the staggered terms, both of which failed.