New York State Governor David Paterson leaves a news conference at the Capitol in Albany, N.Y., Wednesday, June 24, 2009. Paterson said he would withhold senators' pay, and take them to court if they don't do their job.
Updated: 06/25/09 12:19 PM
Dueling factions in Albany working on an agreement
By Tom Precious
NEWS ALBANY BUREAU
ALBANY— Negotiators are working on an agreement so that state senators can begin passing long-stalled bills on Monday, the Democratic head of the GOP-led faction of the Senate said this morning.
Sen. Pedro Espada, in an interview at the Capitol, said he is confident a deal will be struck by tomorrow that will lead to "a resolution of the leadership issues and bring us back - 62 senators - to the Capitol on Monday."
"That's the course we're on," said Espada, the Bronx Democrat whose crossing the aisle on June 8 helped the Republicans take control of the Senate. He was made Senate president for his political help. A fellow Democrat who joined him in the coup has since flipped back, resulting in a 31-31 tie between the two factions.
Espada said staffs and legislative leaders have been talking all morning today about a deal that will keep intact "as close as we can" to the results of the June 8 coup that made him president and Sen. Dean Skelos, a Long Island Republican, the majority leader.
The lawmaker stressed that the sides for the first time are having cordial discussions. "You cannot have an honest dialogue with shields and swords raised and pointed at each other. We've gotten to the point where we're relaxed with each other to really start a negotiation in earnest," Espada said.
Espada said he realizes both factions want to come out of the talks with a "win win for everybody." Democrats have insisted they want at least one of the leadership posts taken during the coup.
Asked if the talks could lead to the Democrats getting one of those posts, Espada said, "We'll let's see what happens. If we approach it philosophically with a win win, if we try to live up to as close as we can to what happened legitimately and legally on June 8 then I think it's real progress."
Asked if that might mean he'd be willing to relinquish his title, Espada said, "No, because that would not be accurate."
Both sides at 3 p.m. are going into an extraordinary session ordered by Gov. David Paterson. Unless a major breakthrough occurs, one idea being floated is that the 31 Democrats will gavel into a session and then gavel out without taking up any bills because they will be one vote short of a quorum. Then Espada and the Republicans will gavel in and do the same.
The governor on Wednesday had vowed court action if the chamber shuttered during a special session that he had ordered.
Paterson's office issued a statement late Wednesday saying there was no need to seek a court order to get senators back to work.
"The leadership from both the Republicans and Democrats has notified my office that they will attend tomorrow's Extraordinary Session, Paterson's statement said. "By complying with their constitutionally mandated obligations, there will be no need to seek a court order tomorrow. However, I will continue to use every power at my disposal to ensure that the Senate gets back to the people's business."
When senators meets today, they will consider 10 new bills that Paterson wants approved.
Missing from today’s agenda are controversial bills Paterson sought Wednesday, such as one to legalize same-sex marriage.
While they will come to session, Democrats already contended that the gatherings are likely illegal. They insist they cannot act on legislation without the Assembly also here in special session. They pushed that point Wednesday by holding only a five-minute session after declaring Paterson’s call for a session unconstitutional.
“Are we kidding?” snapped Paterson, saying he would not call the Assembly back to have it reconsider bills that it already has approved. The Assembly had a simple retort: “The Assembly has passed these bills,” said Dan Weiller, an Assembly Democratic spokesman.
So went Day 17 of “Albany Held Hostage.”
It began with Democrats locking themselves in the chamber — two at a time in two-hour shifts — at 6 a. m. One would sit at the podium, the other in the majority leader’s chair to carry out what they believe is a legal statement that the Democrats control the house. At one point, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani checked in from afar, saying the state should hold a constitutional convention to remedy the parliamentary showdown now under way.
Neither side will recognize the other’s leadership claims — meaning that the Legislature has become, in essence, tricameral: an Assembly and two Senates. After a dueling session Tuesday, which saw shouting as lawmakers ran two sessions at the same time in the chamber, Republicans boycotted the Wednesday session.
Espada responded to the governor’s tongue-lashings Wednesday. “We don’t need lectures,” he said, accusing the governor of wanting “to be the ringleader to the circus” at the Capitol.
Espada and the GOP called for binding arbitration; Democrats said that would take too long, since dozens of state and local laws are set to expire Tuesday without Senate approval.
Earlier, Republicans were back in court, this time as plaintiffs. They want a state judge to order the Democratic-appointed Senate secretary — the chamber’s top staffer — to stop hindering GOP-led sessions. Angelo Aponte, who does not recognize the GOP control, has blocked access to actual bills, locked doors, and turned off microphones and cameras that supply Internet coverage.
State Supreme Court Justice Thomas McNamara, who a week ago tossed out a case by Democrats asking him to settle the coup dispute, was told by a GOP lawyer that the Senate under Aponte had been turned into a Third World-like chamber. A Democratic lawyer said the judge has no jurisdiction over internal Senate matters.
McNamara pleaded with the sides to resolve the dispute — for the good of the state. “I guess I’m talking like a human being, but I don’t understand what’s going on. You guys have to resolve this,” said the judge, who will rule Friday.
Paterson aides made sure that the media were on hand when his counsel, Peter Kiernan, hand-delivered to Senate Democratic and Republican lawyers copies of bills that the governor wanted considered Wednesday afternoon.
“The whole point of the governor calling these extraordinary sessions is to try to force the two sides to resolve this nonsense and get a working and functioning [Senate] majority,” Kiernan said, “because it’s paralyzing this state.”
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I wish to salute Governor Paterson, and for ONE REASON ONLY - he is attempting to UPHOLD THE CONSTITUTION.
Remember that thing, fellow Americans? Written on hemp paper? Describes our rights? Shows established guidelines for proper government?
Yeah...that little thing.
Once again, kudos to Governor Paterson for his attempt to reestablish the will of WE THE PEOPLE.
In other news...Mark Sanford, once a contender for the Republican candidacy for 2012, has now screwed the pooch (no insult intended to the woman involved in the extramarital affair).