By Dan Wiessner
ALBANY, New York (Reuters) - New York state lawmakers on Thursday approved a constitutional amendment that would create a 10-member commission responsible for the once-a-decade process of redrawing the state's congressional and legislative districts.
Eight of the panel's members would be chosen by legislative leaders and would then select the final two commissioners, who would serve as co-chairs. To become law, the amendment must be passed by the next separately elected legislature, in either 2013 or 2014, and approved by voters in a referendum.
The commission would not start its work until the next round of redistricting after the release of the 2020 federal census.
"This agreement will permanently reform the redistricting process in New York to once and for all end self-interested and partisan gerrymandering," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement.
State lawmakers are close to completing the current round of redistricting ahead of this year's elections. The legislature early Thursday approved new lines for state Assembly and Senate districts. The drawing of U.S. congressional districts has reached an impasse and has been left to U.S. Magistrate Roanne Mann, who will hold a hearing Thursday and decide how to proceed.
Agreement on a constitutional amendment was part of a larger deal announced Wednesday that includes expansion of the state's criminal DNA database to require almost anyone convicted of a crime to submit samples of genetic material and a constitutional amendment to legalize casino gambling in New York.
Lawmakers also agreed to less-generous pension benefits for state workers hired on or after April 1, a top priority for Cuomo that has faced steep opposition from unions.
(Reporting By Dan Wiessner; Editing by Daniel Trotta)
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