Cayuga County Legislature Government Operations Committee

The Cayuga County Legislature's Government Operations Committee on Tuesday approved a local law to temporarily shorten some term limits for legislators in advance of the 2020 U.S. Census.

AUBURN — The Cayuga County Legislature took another step toward possible redistricting Tuesday, with a committee approving a local law to align legislators' terms in advance of the 2020 U.S. Census.

Based on population changes, the upcoming census will likely require a reapportioning of the Legislature's weighted vote system, in which a legislator's vote is assigned a point value based on their district's population.

In addition to reapportioning, legislators have expressed interest in using the census as an opportunity to also look at redistricting and changing the number of seats on the Legislature, something that would require both a public referendum and for the currently-staggered terms to be aligned.

On Tuesday, the Legislature's Government Operations Committee tentatively approved a local law that would align legislative terms in advance of the census and its results.

The law is itself subject to a public referendum, as well as a public hearing scheduled for later this month.

If approved, the law will temporarily change the term of office from four years to two years for the legislators running for the term beginning Jan. 2022, and would also change the term limit from three terms to "three full four-year terms."

In order to avoid legal clutter and redundancy, the law will also repeal three previous local laws regarding term limits but contain language to maintain their intended effects.

To that end, County Attorney Chris Palermo requested the law be amended to include language to state that service on the Legislature prior to 2008 be exempt from the term limit, in order to remain consistent with the spirit of a 2007 law.

Otherwise, Palermo said, it was his opinion that the "clock" for legislative service counting toward the limit would begin in 2020 when the law takes effect.

Legislator Patrick Mahunik, I-Auburn, raised the concern that the law could allow someone to resign at the very end of three terms and not have it count as a "full" term, making them able to potentially run again.

Palermo said the law specifically was written to say the limit applied to legislators "elected" to the terms, regardless of whether the term is fully served, in order to avoid such a situation.

That would also allow legislators who were appointed to fill vacancies on the Legislature to run for three, full four-year terms.

Additionally, as the intent of the law is to align the terms for a referendum, the abbreviated two-year terms would not count toward a legislator's limit.

The public hearing on the proposed law is scheduled for the Legislature's next meeting at 1 p.m. May 28 at the Emerson Park Pavilion.

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Staff writer Ryan Franklin can be reached at (315) 282-2252 or ryan.franklin@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @RyanNYFranklin