Assemblyman Hawley is a Republican and Western New York native, and he has represented the 139th Assembly District since 2006. Beginning in the early 1990s, Assemblyman Hawley has been interested in upstate New York secession as a potential way to reinvigorate the upstate economy, particularly in regard to expenditure issues.
Assemblyman Hawley has stated that according to several surveys on the subject, the overwhelming majority of his constituents support upstate New York secession. Downstate-driven legislation has repeatedly failed Western New York, he says, including Medicaid mandates, the SAFE Act, the fracking ban, education policies, and property taxes. Medicaid in particular represents an expensive burden for upstate New York. While some say that upstate would not have enough revenue to make it on their own as an autonomous state, Assemblyman Hawley believes that secession comes down to an expenditure issue rather than a revenue issue. In the Assemblyman’s vision, if upstate seceded, it would reduce Medicaid expenditures and eliminate other state mandates that make it difficult for upstate New York to survive.
In this clip from March 2013, Assemblyman Hawley speaks at a Second Amendment rally in Albany. He emphasizes the importance of upstate New York citizens’ rights and strongly speaks out against the SAFE act, one of the downstate-driven laws that he says has failed Western New Yorkers.
The Impact of the 2016 Presidential Election
Assemblyman Hawley believes that the 2016 Presidential Election has further invigorated the movement to split New York into two separate states. The highest turnout for Trump in New York state was in Assemblyman Hawley’s district. The Assemblyman believes that the outcome of the election shows that upstate New Yorkers have “had it” with governmental rules and regulations, like the SAFE Act, telling them how to live.
Assemblyman Hawley has proposed legislation in the Assembly to provide for a state wide, non-binding referendum on the question of upstate New York Secession. If passed, New York State voters would be asked on their ballots whether they support they division of New York into two separate states. However, the Assemblyman has not yet been successful in getting this legislation out of committee.
While some secessionist groups, particularly New Amsterdam NY, are calling for a New York State Constitutional Convention where the issue of secession could be discussed and developed, Assemblyman Hawley has voiced his concerns with this strategy. In particular, the delegates chosen for the Convention would likely be political types rather than ordinary citizens, and there may be more delegates from downstate than upstate. The Assemblyman believes that reform is needed to change how delegates are chosen so that more non-political types of people are involved and so that selection occurs at-large rather than by Senate or Assembly appointment. This would allow for delegates more representative of upstate to be chosen.
If New York is eventually divided into two separate states, Senator Hawley believes that the new upstate should be comprised of everything from Westchester county north.