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Editorial: How Newsday votes on New York ballot propositions

Long Beach residents voting at Lindell Elementary School

Long Beach residents voting at Lindell Elementary School in Long Beach on Nov. 5, 2013. Photo Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Long Island voters will decide on several ballot propositions in addition to the top-ticket races this upcoming election. Here are Newsday's recommendations.

State Proposition: Reject NY State proposal on redistricting

New York has an awful method of drawing electoral maps.

The once-a-decade process often produces twisted political boundaries for Assembly, Senate and congressional seats that are an insult to voters, an obstacle to political challengers and a gift to incumbents. Now voters will decide whether to support the minuscule improvements offered by politicians or hold out for better. The proposal would create a 10-member commission, with Senate and Assembly majority and minority leaders picking two each and those eight picking two more.

Real change was supposed to come with the last redistricting in 2012, based on the 2010 census, with an independent, nonpartisan process. Practically every senator, including Republican leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), committed to such a change, and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said he would veto maps not created by an independent commission. But when Skelos' party retook control of the Senate, his pledge went out the window. And Cuomo reneged, approving maps that weren't created by an independent commission. They defended their changes in position by saying 2012 would mark the last such poorly done redistricting, and by holding up the faux improvements offered in this referendum as fix-alls for future redistricting.

But the system they want to enshrine in the state constitution is neither nonpartisan nor independent. The commission it creates would be chosen mostly by legislative leaders. It would have an even number of members, making stalemates likely. It would demand seven of 10 members be present to meet, meaning four disgruntled members could block meetings. And if lawmakers didn't like the maps, they would still be able to reject the proposal and draw their own. Legislators would still control electoral lines. We would prefer that the commission not be chosen by people who have a direct stake in the outcome. The goal should be to create competitive elections and districts that better represent community interests.

Iowa and California are states where independent commissions draw the boundaries. We don't believe the best argument made in favor of the amendment: "It's the best we can hope for." New York deserves a truly independent redistricting process. Vote no on proposal No. 1.

State Proposition: Vote yes on electronic versions of bills in Albany

Proposal 2 would help usher the State Legislature into the digital age.

Lawmakers cannot routinely vote on bills until they've been printed and made available in final form for at least three days. The idea is to give legislators time to read them. The constitution's 1938 requirement that they be printed has been taken literally to mean ink on paper.

Proposal 2 would amend the constitution to allow bills to be distributed in electronic form accessible by computer. Albany votes on more than a thousand bills a year. "Printing" them electronically would be more efficient, and the savings should be considerable. Vote yes on proposal No. 2.

State Proposition: Vote no on bond issue for school technology

The New York Bonds for School Technology Act proposition would allow the state to borrow up to $2 billion to modernize technology in schools and build new pre-K classrooms. However, the computer hardware and devices purchased would become obsolete well before taxpayers repaid the debt.

The state should fund technology purchases through annual school appropriations. Such a huge borrowing would bring New York closer to its debt ceiling at a time when there are pressing needs to repair our roads and fund transportiation.

Newsday recomends a no vote.

Suffolk Proposition: Vote yes to eliminate treasurer job

A two-year feud between Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and county Treasurer Angie Carpenter will finally be resolved by voters: Does Suffolk need both a comptroller and a treasurer?

This proposition would eliminate the elected position of county treasurer on the last day of 2017 and merge its functions with the comptroller's office. It should be approved.

Suffolk is the only county in New York State that elects both a treasurer and a comptroller. There is little justification for electing a treasurer; the office has no political or policy-making role. Consolidating the county's financial operations into one office would streamline government, increase efficiency and save Suffolk about $800,000 per year -- rationales embraced long ago by the rest of the state.

Carpenter, whose current term also finishes at the end of 2017 and who cannot run again because of term limits, says having separate, elected positions of treasurer and comptroller enhances the checks and balances on Suffolk's finances. But it also creates more patronage and excessive spending.

Approval of the proposition would mean that the person elected Suffolk County comptroller on Nov. 4 would take over the treasurer's functions for the final year of that four-year term. Vote yes on this proposition.

Suffolk Proposition: Vote yes on repayment to water-sewer fund

This local proposition resolves a long dispute between Suffolk County and environmentalists over county attempts to borrow money from a drinking water protection program fund dedicated to stabilizing sewer rates. The fund has $100 million more than it needs.

If approved, it would return, via bonding, $29.4 million diverted several years ago. The bonds must be issued by 2018 and spent by 2020. In return, County Executive Steve Bellone would be allowed to re-borrow from the fund for three years, with mandatory repayment by 2029, to help balance the county budget. We would prefer the $100 million be used to build new sewers, a path the county should pursue as Bellone's borrowing is repaid.

The deal is sound. The county eventually sets aside more money for water quality, guarantees repayment of new borrowing and reaffirms the principle established in the 1987 referendum that set up the program: Only the public gets to decide how to use money it has set aside.Vote yes on this proposition.

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