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Commission Recommends Fewer Erie County Lawmakers

Legislature Chairwoman Lynn Marinelli
Courtesy of erie.gov
Legislature Chairwoman Lynn Marinelli

By Joyce Kryszak

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/wbfo/local-wbfo-839594.mp3

Buffalo, NY – The commission appointed to help revamp Erie County government said the county should shrink the size of the legislature. WBFO's Joyce Kryszak has details of the final report released Tuesday.

Click the audio player above to hear Joyce Kryszak's full story now or use your podcasting software to download it to your computer or iPod.

The 21st Century Commission was appointed last fall and set out to review five areas of possible reform. The biggest question - and most controversial - was the size of the legislature.

There are currently 15 lawmakers representing residents in districts throughout the county. But the Commission found that the area's shrinking population calls for fewer legislators. The commission decided only 11 lawmakers are needed. Martha Lamparelli is chairwoman of the commission. She said the change would also save roughly $250,000 a year.

But three commission members disagreed and voted against the recommendation. They said part-time lawmakers don't have enough time to cover larger districts and representation would suffer.

However, there was agreement on other recommendations. That included a recommendation to extend the terms for legislators from two to four years. The commission found that would give lawmakers more time to focus on the needs of their constituents.

But the commission did not recommend term limits. Lamparelli said, historically, this has not been an issue on the legislature, as it has been in other areas of government.

The commission also voted against staggered terms and at-large seats. The full report will go before the legislature tomorrow. Legislature Chairwoman Lynn Marinelli said it will be sent to the government affairs committee for review and a public hearing will be held.

Lawmakers would have to vote to allow the recommendations be put up for public referendum in November. Marinelli, who called for the commission, would not say if she supports the recommendations, but said she would work to have the legislature reach a majority vote.

If placed on the ballot and approved, changes would not take effect until the election of 2011.