In a stunning rebuke to Governor Andrew Cuomo and the Public Campaign Finance and Election Commission that he appointed to change NY State Election laws governing smaller political parties, State Supreme Court Judge Ralph Boniello ruled that the actions of the Commission were “an improper and unconstitutional delegation of legislative authority,” and granted summary judgment in favor of the Plaintiffs who were seeking to have the new law overturned.
The suit, filed in Niagra County by registered voters and by Assemblyman David Buchwald, as well as board members of the NYS Committee of the Working Families Party, asked the court to declare unconstitutional the governors attempt to create law by an unelected commission and to bypass entirely the most basic elements of representative government: laws openly presented, debated and voted on by our elected representatives and then either signed or vetoed in the plain light of day by our Governor, the elected head of our executive branch.
Under the process which the court ruled unconstitutional, a Commission, appointed by the Governor and the Majority and Minority leaders of both the State Senate and Assembly, issued a report on December 1, 2019 which became law on December 22, 2019 even though the legislature was not in session, never saw or considered the laws and never voted on it.
Judge Boniello ruled that the entire process resulted in an abrogation of the power and responsibility of the State Legislature. Noting that it takes a duly passed statute to modify another duly passed statute, the court observed that the doctrine of legislative equivalency requires that “to repeal or modify a statute requires a legislative act of equal dignity and import. Nothing less than another statute will suffice” (Moran v LaGuardia,270 NY 450 )’ wrote Judge Boniello.
In a separate challenge to the work of the Governor’s unelected commission, the SAM Party of NY filed a lawsuit in early January against the purported rule that it run a Presidential candidate in 2020 and win 2% or more of the vote or lose its official status as a party. SAM-NY Chairman Michael Volpe called Judge Boniello’s decision “excellent news for giving more choices on the ballot for New Yorkers.”
He added, “It bodes well for our suit in Federal Court, challenging the constitutionality of this purported law under the US constitution.” In the 2018 NY Gubernatorial election, SAM earned a ballot line for four years by running a fusion ticket of democrat Stephanie Miner for Governor and republican Mike Volpe for Lt. Governor, that tallied more than 50,000 votes statewide.
When SAM filed its Federal suit in January, Volpe added, “Everything about this effort to suppress political competition, including how it was enacted, represents how the current two-party system wields its power to rig the system in its favor. It’s undemocratic, unconstitutional and attempts to deny New Yorkers the ability to choose candidates who are willing to be held accountable for their actions, candidates who oppose party power politics and demand transparency in all decisions.”
For more information about SAM-NY, visit joinsamny.org