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The New York Legislature is the term often used to refer to the two houses that act as the state legislature of the U.S. state of New Yorkmarker. Under the New York State Constitution, there is no such thing as the "New York State Legislature". Instead, according to the New York State Constitution, "legislative power is vested in the senate and assembly", which are always treated in the Constitution as two separate and distinct bodies, and with a unified "legislature" being nowhere mentioned. Thus, while New York is commonly considered to have a bicameral legislature, consisting of the lower house New York State Assembly and the upper house New York Senate, this is not what the New York State Constitution actually provides. The legislature is seated at the New York State Capitolmarker in Albanymarker.

Legislative Houses

Legislative elections are held in November of every even-numbered year. Both Assembly members and Senators serve two-year terms.

In order to be a member of either house, one must be a citizen of the United Statesmarker, a resident of the state of New York for at least five years, and a resident of the district for at least one year prior to election.

The lower Assembly consists of 150 members, each chosen from a single-member district. The Senate, in accordance with the New York Constitution, varies in its number of members, but currently has 62. Senate districts are currently between two and three times more populous than Assembly districts.


The Assembly is headed by the Speaker, while the Senate is headed by the President, a post held ex officio by the State Lieutenant Governor. The Lieutenant Governor, as President of the Senate, has only a "casting" (tie-breaking) vote. More often, the Senate is presided over by the Temporary President or by a senator of the Majority Leader's choosing.

The Assembly Speaker and Senate Majority Leader control the assignment of committees and leadership positions, along with control of the agenda in their chambers. The two are considered powerful statewide leaders and along with the Governor of New York control most of the agenda of state business in New York.

Party control

The New York State Legislature as of June 8, 2009, has its houses split between the Republican (GOP) and Democratic parties. To begin the 2009 session (elected November 2008), Democrats had a 32-30 seat majority in the State Senate and, in the Assembly, Democrats have a 109-41 seat supermajority. However, the Republicans were able to regain control of the Senate during a leadership coup, in which two Democratic Senators voted with the GOP to install a Republican majority leader. The Democratic Senators regained control of Senate leadership on July 8, 2009.

Except for the first five months of 2009, the State Senate has been in Republican hands for decades. Among the top reasons for this include the more conservative upstate region holding more clout in the State Senate, as well as Long Islandmarker, where voters are increasingly trending toward the Democrats on the state and local levels (Long Island was once overwhelmingly Republican) but continue to re-elect their incumbent Republican state senators (some of whom have served for many years, such as 30+ year veteran Caesar Trunzo who was defeated in 2008 and 36 year incumbent Owen H. Johnson, and most of whom have raised considerable amounts of money to deter challengers).

In recent years, Republicans in the State Senate have lost ground, particularly in Westchester Countymarker and New York Citymarker, though they still hold a few senate seats representing parts of Queensmarker, Brooklynmarker, and Staten Islandmarker (which leans Republican at most levels of government). Economic troubles and population loss in upstate New York are also a factor, as Democratic-leaning areas of that region have become more important in recent elections. In the past, Democrats would occasionally switch parties when they ran for Senate so they could sit with the majority.

The Assembly has been dominated by Democrats for about 30 years, and Republicans have recently lost ground in this chamber as well. Between 2002 and 2005, the Republican conference dropped from 53 seats to 45. Republicans even lost some districts that historically have been reliably Republican, especially on Long Island. One crucial reason for the Democrats' dominance is that they control 64 of the 65 districts that are assigned to New York City (an extension of the party's dominance at most other levels in the city).

Constitutional powers

The Legislature is empowered to make law, subject to the governor's power to veto a bill. However, the veto may be overridden by the Legislature if there is a two-thirds majority in favor of overriding in each House. Furthermore, it has the power to propose New York Constitution amendments by a majority vote, and then another majority vote following an election. If so proposed, the amendment becomes valid if agreed to by the voters at a referendum.


As of a 2007 poll by Quinnipiac Universitymarker, voters disapprove of the job the State Legislature is doing. The legislature's history of corruption includes the so-called Black Horse Cavalry.

The first African-American elected to the legislature was Edward A. Johnson, a Republican, in 1917.

The first women elected to the legislature were Republican Ida Sammis and Democrat Mary Lilly, both in 1919.

Five assemblymen were expelled in 1920 for belonging to the Socialist Party.

In a 2008 U.S.marker Supreme Courtmarker decision involving the constitutionality of a law enacted by the New York Legislature, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote in his concurring opinion: "[A]s I recall my esteemed former colleague, Thurgood Marshall, remarking on numerous occasions: 'The Constitution does not prohibit legislatures from enacting stupid laws.'"

Legislative leadership

See also


  2. Dictionary of NC Biography
  3. Early Women Elected to the NYS Legislature
  4. New York State Bd. of Elections v. Lopez Torres, 552 U.S. 196, 209 (2008) (Stevens, J., concurring).

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