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Task Force Focusing On NY Redistricting

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WASHINGTON - A New York legislative task force is about to turn its focus to redrawing New York's congressional districts and could have proposals out in March, one of its co-chairmen said Monday.
State Assemblyman John J. McEneny, D-Albany and co-chairman of the state Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment, gave the timeline in a telephone interview as officials prepared to release proposed maps for state Assembly and Senate districts, possibly by today.
"We have not started to draw congressional maps," Mr. McEneny said. The task force will begin public hearings on the state legislative districts next week, he said, aiming to have final lines drawn by March 6.
In the meantime, he said, the task force will begin work on the congressional maps.
New York is set to lose two of its 29 House seats because the New York's population has not kept pace with other states. If history is a guide, one will be upstate - perhaps held by a Republican - and one downstate, possibly held by a Democrat.
The retirement of Rep. Maurice D. Hinchey, D-Saugerties, announced last week, could allow mapmakers to carve up Democratic territory around Albany and Binghamton for neighboring districts held by Democrats, although Rep. William Owens's 23rd Congressional District is not one of those. Mr. Owens said last week he does not see an impact on the north country.
"I'm not sure it has any significant impact on redistricting," he said.
Mr. McEneny said he could not comment on any potential impact of Mr. Hinchey's retirement. Often, though, Western New York has been the focus for eliminating a seat because of sharp population loss.
In the last remapping, after the 2000 census, the districts represented by Reps. John J. LaFalce, D-Tonawanda, and Benjamin Gilman, R-Middletown, were eliminated.
Mr. Owens has said he does not expect a major disruption of the 23rd Congressional District, which stretches from Plattsburgh to Oswego and also includes areas south of the New York State Thruway in Madison County. Area lawmakers have long worried mapmakers could split the district in two, for instance, putting Watertown in a district with more urban-oriented communities around Syracuse.
Members of New York's House delegation have been visiting Albany in recent weeks for updates on redistricting and to weigh in with suggestions. One of the lawmakers who visited was Rep. Paul D. Tonko, D-Amsterdam, who received "just a brief update on the process," said his spokesman, Beau Duffy.
"There were no proposed district lines or maps shared," Mr. Duffy wrote in an e-mail message.
The new congressional map will require agreement by the state Senate and Assembly. If they cannot agree, a court-ordered map could result.

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