State Supreme Court Justice Throws Circus Back to Split Senate to Figure Out


capitol-chaosNew York state leadership remains in limbo after a judge tossed out the Democrats’ coup challenge today. Both Democrats and Republicans said they’re now ready to move forward with a coalition government, but so far it’s been all talk and no action. No business was done in Albany again today as Democrats and Republicans argued about the meaning of a judge’s decision ordering them to decide amongst themselves how to share power. “Judge McNamara was clear and unequivocal. He chose today to uphold the legal decisions that were made by a 32-30 vote on June 8 here that created a bipartisan government,” said Sen. Pedro Espada, D-Bronx.Two interpretations of Judge Thomas McNamara’s ruling about last week’s coup lead to only one conclusion. Right now no business will be conducted in the upper house.

What the judge actually said was that a court should not impose a solution on the Legislature. Judge McNamara also said:

“In the present context, the question calls for a solution by the members of that state Senate, utilizing the art of negotiation and compromise. The failure of the Senate to resolve this issue in an appropriate manner will make them answerable to the electorate.”

The Republican coalition insisted that the judge sided with them.

“We extend our hand to other members of the Democratic conference to join us. To join us so that we can now move forward,” said Sen. Dean Skelos, R-Long Island.

And they challenged Democrats to come to session and get back to work. The Democrats said they would not appeal the judge’s decision, but they would not come back to work until there’s a power-sharing agreement.

“With all due respect to Sen. Skelos and his colleagues, they’re dealing in last week’s news,” Sen. Jeffrey Klein, D-Bronx, said. “Right now the Senate is 31-31. There’s a tie, so when there’s a tie, it’s incumbent on all of us Democrats and Republicans to move towards a temporary coalition government.”

Added Sen. John Sampson, D-Brooklyn, who was recently named head of the Democratic conference: “I want to make sure today we declare victory for all New Yorkers. The court basically reaffirmed that Sen. [Malcolm] Smith on Jan. 7, 2009, was duly elected temporary president and majority leader.”

Governor David Paterson asked both sides to come up with a stipulated list of bills that they can agree to pass according to localities — like a half percent sales increase that NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg needs to close his budget gap.

“What I asked both parties is if they would stipulate to an agreement where we would come into the Senate and have no leadership, but we would put these bills on the calendar. We would find someone that’s perceived to be impartial to be the presiding officer and then we would pass, what is basically non-controversial legislation,” Paterson said.

To which Sen. Espada responded: “What he should be doing is asking Democratic party senators, God bless them all, to come and do their job.”

Paterson instead implored all involved to quickly end the logjam and get the business of state government moving again.

“Right now, their duty as senators are more important than their duty as politicians. We respect that they have a dispute. We recognize that it is difficult to resolve and yet it is not in the matter of priority as doing the people’s business,” Paterson said.

At one point the governor offered to preside over the Senate to get things moving, but officials said that would be unconstitutional.

“We cannot be having campaign issues, leadership election issues, political issues cloaking the chamber of the New York State Senate, such that we can’t get the people’s business done,” Paterson added. “The people’s business is the most important. It’s the one we need to address.”

A power-sharing agreement proposed by the Democrats would include a bipartisan committee that would decide what bills go to the floor.

“It’s very simple … we would have a conference committee made up of three Republican senators and three Democratic senators who would determine what bills go on the calendar,” Klein said.

With both sides so far apart, it will really take, as the judge said, the art of negotiation and compromise.

{CBS Broadcasting/ Newscenter}