Chaos in Albany: Espada To Undefect Back To Democrats


sen-pedro-espadaDemocratic NY State Sen. Pedro Espada, who a month ago joined forces with Republican senators to form a coalition government and knock Democrats from the chamber’s majority, will undefect back to his original party and give Senate Democrats a 32-30 hold of the Senate. Espada is currently meeting with the Democratic Conference to negotiate what role he will have upon his return. Source say it’s likely he’ll have some sort of leadership position. Espada, along with Democratic Sen. Hiram Monserrate, joined Republicans on June 8, 2008 to give their new coalition government a 32-30 stronghold of the Senate. Espada was sworn in a Senate President pro tem, a position that would keep him “a heartbeat” away from being governor. But Monserrate’s move was short lived. He rejoined his Democratic party days later creating a 31-31 tie between parties, a tight knot that seemed might never break.

Since then, neither side seemed to budge, leaving state bills untouched, and taxpayers, lawmakers, and state leaders frustrated. Gov. David Paterson had tried scheduling special legislative sessions to force the sides to come to a deal, but no resolution was ever reached. Paterson continued to scramble as elected officials across the state found themselves with empty wallets and desperate for the Senate to return to business as usual.

On Thursday, Paterson tried to end the Albany chaos by appointing former MTA chair Richard Ravitch lieutenant governor.

Republicans challenged the appointment in the courts early Thursday, leaving even more confusion in the state capitol, though that confusion would come to an end should Democrats regain control of the Senate once again.

Many in office, including Republican Sen. Dean Skelos of Nassau County, denounced Paterson’s actions claiming that they were unconstitutional.

“Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has already said it’s unconstitutional for the governor to appoint a lieutenant governor and I agree,” Skelos said.

Skelos and Espada had sent lawyers to the home of a Nassau County judge in the middle of the night, who signed a restraining order at 12:23 a.m. Thursday to temporarily stop Ravitch from presiding over the Senate. Lawyers for the governor are expected in court to undo that order, but it’s unclear when.

Needless to say there were a lot of tense exchanges.

Lawyers for Skelos tried to reach Ravitch on his cell phone to ask for his address so they could serve him with papers, but Ravitch refused to tell them.

On Thursday, an angry Skelos claimed the governor tried to put one over on him by saying he would swear Ravitch in on Thursday when it was already done Wednesday night.

“The governor’s habit of publicly saying one thing and secretly doing another is exactly the kind of hypocritical tactic he used when he secretly negotiated a disastrous budget that raised taxes and spending,” Skelos said.

Meanwhile, Paterson said he would not order the former Metropolitan Transportation Authority chairman to preside in the Senate Thursday while various courts take up the issue.

Paterson, however, is convinced that was he did is totally constitutional and will ultimately be upheld.

{CBS Broadcasting/ Newscenter}