There were a few empty seats when lawmakers held their first legislative session of the year in Albany Monday. With Democratic Assemblyman Eric Stevenson being convicted on corruption charges, 11 seats in all are now vacant. But as Time Warner Cable News reporter Jon Dougherty explains, special elections might not happen and more than 1.6 million New Yorkers could be without representation for another year.
ALBANY, N.Y. -- The 237th Legislative Session began, but scattered throughout the 150 seats in the New York State Assembly Chambers were empty seats.
Two of which were vacated in as many days.
It took a jury less than two hours to convict Assemblyman Eric Stevenson of all federal corruption charges Monday afternoon forcing him from the Assembly. Stevenson was accused of accepting bribes in exchange for writing favorable legislation of adult day homes.
A day earlier, Buffalo-area Assemblyman Dennis Gabryszak retired suddenly amid sexual harassment allegations.
His former office sat untouched Monday and his name plate no longer there.
Senator Tim Kennedy of Buffalo represents part of Gabryszak's district in the Senate. His office is trying to fill the void.
"We are doing everything in our power to make sure their voice is represented here in Albany," Kennedy said.
The openings began last November when several lawmakers were elected to other offices, others resigned, and with these two latest cases, leaving eleven districts from Buffalo to New York City without representation according to some good government groups, at the worst time.
"Taxpaying constituents will not have any representation here in Albany to give their views of what should be in the budget, how the budget should be voted on, or not voted on," said Barbara Bartoletti of the NYS League of Women Voters.
It's up to Governor Cuomo to announce special election dates, but even if he does soon, they'll likely miss out on the budget process.
"Under the law it's probably 70 days from now and chances are by the time there's an election the budget will be passed," said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.
So what's the Governor waiting for to call a special election?
The Governor says his decision is based on the cost of holding one which will run into in the millions compared to the community's right to representation. But as of right now, there are no plans to have any.
"It will probably cost some money but I do suspect that as I've said before each and every community needs to be represented. It's better to have a community be enfranchised rather than disenfranchised," Assemblymember Keith Wright said.
If Governor Cuomo decides not to hold special elections, this is an election year meaning those empty seats will be filled one way or another, but it could be until this time next year until a representative is sworn in, more than a year after each was vacated.