Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Capitol Punishment

Albany Times Union Editorial Says It All
An artfully planned coup that would restore the gridlock voters rejected last year

Back in power. Now what?

It was sadly fitting that the lights went out and the cameras shut down Monday as Republicans seized back control of the state Senate.

Sad and fitting, because shielding the raw political spectacle from public view may well have been the last official act of a Democratic majority that promised reform, and had yet to deliver in so many ways. Instead, as the course of New York's government and future was being decided, the party flipped the switch as if to say: none of the public's business.

Sad and fitting, too, because the lack of sunshine was what welcomed back a Republican majority that seemed to care little for openness during its four-decade rule, and whose claimed conversion to the cause of reform came only on its apparent deathbed.

And so, with nine scheduled days left in a six-month long session, with the state and the world around it in economic crisis, with so much more to be done, this is what the people's business was pushed aside for:

An artfully planned coup that would restore the gridlock voters rejected last year. Aided by two Democratic senators -- one under indictment, the other under investigation and recently scolded by his own leadership for campaign finance lapses. Engineered with the help of billionaire Thomas Golisano, a three-time failed gubernatorial candidate and newly minted Florida resident who's sore that Democrats raised taxes a little on the rich to help the state get through a recession.

This is in no way to applaud the Democrats' performance during their brief period of one-party rule. While they did achieve real reform of the Rockefeller Drug Laws, they crafted an excessive budget behind closed doors, as usual, not bothering to even go through the motions of bipartisanship and openness.

Ex-Majority Leader Malcolm Smith and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver were moving at a snail's pace -- if that -- on reforming campaign finance laws and ethics rules for the Legislature and executive branch. Talk of property tax relief seemed to have evaporated. Senate Democrats had pushed back the timetable on several other important issues, particularly gay marriage and the way the chamber operates. They'd embraced injustices they had long railed against, including the lopsided allocation of legislators' resources and discretionary funds.

But there was hope that on some of those issues, particularly overhauling the New York's political system to cut down the influence of money, the Democrats would lead the state into a cleaner era. Now, on that and so many other matters, New Yorkers can reasonably expect gridlock.

We challenge the Republican majority to prove us wrong. Majority Leader Dean Skelos and his colleagues tout their new majority as a bipartisan coalition ready to go forward with reform. We can only wait and see.

The next few weeks will tell. If only lawmakers put even half as much effort into governing as they put into politics, we might have a government worthy of a state whose motto is Excelsior.

What will it be, Mr. Skelos? Ever upward, or right back to where we were a year ago?

The issue:
Republicans, with help from their friends, reclaim the state Senate.

The Stakes:
New Yorkers deserve more than a return to gridlock.
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Folks, we couldn't have said it better ourselves!

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