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“It ain’t over until it’s over.”
Those words of immortal Yankee great Yogi Berra appear to be reverberating from Albany to City Hall regarding the recent city legislation extending term limits from two to three four-year terms.
In Albany, last week’s election giving the Democrats a majority in the State Senate has given Brooklyn lawmakers Hakeem Jeffries and Kevin Parker’s proposed Preservation of Democracy Act a new lease on life.
The measure, if passed, would require the city, and in fact all state municipalities, to conduct a referendum before any legislated term limit modifications.
Assemblymember Jeffries said he would introduce the legislation before the Assembly in a special session slated for Nov. 18 to deal with the fiscal crisis and budget cuts.
Conversely, Parker said he would introduce the bill in the Senate.
Legislative sources said that Bloomberg’s backing of City Councilmember Simcha Felder over Parker in the recent Democratic state primary coupled with Bloomberg’s backing of the GOP to hold the Senate majority has added fuel to the fire to pass the bill.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has given Jeffries’ legislation the green light for its introduction and that chamber, and the expected new Senate majority leader Malcolm Smith, gave the green light for Parker’s bill to be introduced in the Senate.
“Mayor Bloomberg may have won the first battle, but the struggle to protect the integrity of our democracy is just getting started,” said Jeffries.
“Momentum for the legislation is growing in both the Senate and Assembly, and Kevin Parker and I will continue to work hard to generate support in advance of the legislature going back into session,” he added.
Parker said the bill is about standing up for democracy and not allowing for the circumvention of the process.
“It’s also going to set up a precedent for future mayors that don’t respect the will of the electorate and want to go around them,” said Parker.
While Gov. David Paterson has yet to comment on the legislation, Parker said he expects the Democratic governor to support party members as he has in the past.
“If it passes the Assembly and Senate, he will respect the will of the voters and sign the bill,” said Parker.
At the city level, Comptroller Bill Thompson and Councilmember Letitia James led a group of other city elected officials, civic leaders and organizations in filing a term limits lawsuit in federal court last week.
The lawsuit alleges the voters had their constitutional rights violated when the City Council went against two referendums to allow for a third term.
“Today’s court action is necessary to correct an injustice,” said Thompson in a statement. “We are stepping forward on behalf of those New Yorkers who were denied a voice when self-interest prevailed over the public good. Today’s action aims to restore democracy to this process.”
The city’s Corporation Counsel, Michael A. Cardozo, dismissed the lawsuit as frivolous.
“We believe the claims lack merit, and are confident the court will determine that the amendment to the term limits law was proper and lawful,” he said.
©2008 Community Newspaper Group
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