The battle for control of the New York State Senate got even more bizarre yesterday. After talks of a power-sharing arrangement broke down, Democrats locked themselves in the Senate chamber, Republicans tried to conduct business on their own and none of the “people’s business” got done. As incredible as it may seem, pictures obtained by CBS 2 HD are of the Democratic senators who locked themselves inside their chamber so they could be “first in” for Gov. David Paterson’s special session. The pictures, shot through the window of a Senate door, seem to show that it was all about taking possession of the podium.
Yonkers Sen. Andrea Stewart Cousins is seen standing there to prevent the Republicans from taking over. The move came shortly after Democrats said talks of establishing a bi-partisan operating agreement fell through because a Republican coalition insisted the Senate president be Bronx Sen. Pedro Espada.
“We do not concede that Pedro Espada is the Senate president. We have offered to put aside the issues of whether the president of the Senate is Sen. [Malcolm] Smith or Sen. Espada,” said Sen. Eric Schneiderman, D-Manhattan.
What happened next was equally incredible. With the Democrats in their seats, the Republicans marched in and tried to take the podium. They were rebuffed, so they held a session from the well of the chamber and passed dozens of bills by acclamation.
The odd thing was when Republican senators start the session with the pledge of allegiance. The Democrats didn’t stand to participate and when one tried to stand, he was pulled down.
After the Republicans gaveled out, the Democrats gaveled in their special session. The problem was Sen. Smith said they couldn’t proceed because they didn’t have the governor’s bills
The big question is when or if they’ll ever be able to pass anything.
“At this time, no one in this chamber is holding the governor’s business back, other than the governor’s office not having the material needed on time,” Smith said.
Paterson was furious. His aides said the bills were sent to the Senate chamber at 1 p.m.
“I’ve been a public servant for over 20 years and what I’ve seen in the last two weeks in the Senate disgusts me. Their inaction is a dereliction of duty. I pledge as governor there will be no more tolerance of these delays and these distractions.”
Paterson said this week that he would call special legislative sessions every day, including on weekends and holidays, until the two sides could come to an agreement. Senators would have to attend such sessions, but they would not have to vote on any bills. Who would preside over the sessions remains unclear.
Paterson has lashed out at senators for the ongoing soap opera. It’s been two weeks since the state Senate accomplished anything and the governor said enough is enough.
But his mandate seemed to make little impact considering Tuesday’s madness.
Meanwhile, the Assembly adjourned at 2 a.m. Tuesday after passing hundreds of bills. Most of the measures have companion bills pending in the Senate.
Those affected by the delay include Mayor Michael Bloomberg and all New York City residents.
He’s pushing for a renewal of mayoral control of city schools, citing recent favorable performance data. Like so many other local officials across the Empire State, Bloomberg is anxiously waiting for a break in the legislative deadlock.
“I think everybody understands that mayoral control really has been the key to all of this,” Bloomberg said. “It has given us the ability to make the tough decisions and hold people accountable for results.”