Republicans say they’ve secured a court order suspending New York Gov. David Paterson’s plan to appoint a lieutenant governor to preside over the gridlocked New York Senate. GOP Senate spokesman John McArdle said today that a judge in Nassau County issued the order overnight. He says it temporarily suspends Paterson’s plan to have Richard Ravitch provide a tie-breaking vote and preside over the Senate. Ravitch says he was sworn in at 8 p.m. Wednesday, hours after Paterson made the surprise appointment long thought to be constitutionally prohibited.
The Senate has been gridlocked since a June 8 coup by a Republican-dominated coalition over the Democratic conference that thought it won the majority.
Paterson’s position is simple: extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. But the question is whether he has the political power to keep his appointment.
On Wednesday, Paterson explained his decision and his motivation.
“When I assumed the office of governor I took an oath and I swore to protect and defend the New York State constitution. The welfare of the people of this state, their security and safety, their economic stability must be my most important responsibilities,” Paterson said during his televised speech on Wednesday.
“There is nothing in the constitution nor in the law that says I cannot fill the vacant post of lieutenant governor. So therefore today I will appoint a lieutenant governor who will serve out the remainder of my term with me,” Paterson said, adding he consulted with lawyers and legal experts.
“I have selected Richard Ravitch, the former chair of the MTA and the Urban Development Corporation and a vital leader of the fiscal recovery in the ’70s to serve with me until 2010. He will not be a candidate thereafter,” he said.
Depending on the legality of the appointment, Paterson could be seen as the hero who saved Albany or as Republican Senator Dean Skelos sees it, a politically selfish governor who’s partisan maneuvering stands to make an already bad situation worse.
“The days of powerful leaders controlling everything are over. The days of three men in a room raising taxes and spending in secret are done. The governor and those wedded to the past must recognize that Albany is changing for the better,” said Sen. Dean Skelos (R-RockvilleCentre).
Ravitch, a former MTA chief, who recently took the lead in helping to solve the agency’s budget crisis, has a reputation as a well-regarded public servant with a record of service dating back to the 1960s. But ultimately, the fate of his appointment, which has already been challenged by the State Attorney General, could be decided in court.