Tuesday, June 16, 2009

“Muchas gracias, El Presidente”

Senator Skelos Hails Pedro Espada, Heartbeat Away From Governor's Desk

Could it get any more ridiculous, on either side of the aisle?

Leadership? Where? From what we see, there's not a single leader in the NYS Senate. Worse still, not a one of 'em, Democrat or Republican, in touch with reality.

Sorry, but this is no way for elected officials to behave. Not in New York.

Shame we don't have a recall vote -- or, at least, term limits. By the time New York's Senate gets back to business, if ever, the Senators' respective terms would be over!

The Governor should let the legislative session end, with no further business being conducted, sending these jokers home to their districts to deal directly with their constituents.

And we, the people, should get off our duffs, descend upon our Senators' district offices, and make our disgust and outrage known.

Enough, already!

In Iran, they take to the streets to protest the government. In New York, nada.

Go figure!
- - -
From The New York Times:

Judge Refuses to Undo Change of Control in State Senate

ALBANY — A state judge on Tuesday refused to overturn last week’s takeover of the State Senate by the Republicans, essentially leaving it to the Legislature to decide which party is in charge.

Any chance that a resolution could be reached quickly, however, appeared small. Republicans convened a session of the Senate on Tuesday afternoon. But with only 31 members in attendance — one shy of a quorum — they could not accomplish any legislative action.

Democrats criticized the session as nothing more than political theater and implored Republicans to negotiate a power-sharing deal that would allow Senate business to resume.

The Senate’s operations have been at a standstill since last Monday, when Republicans joined with two renegade Democrats to seize control of the chamber.

The judge’s decision, issued by Justice Thomas J. McNamara of State Supreme Court on Tuesday afternoon, effectively puts the Senate at a 31-to-31 deadlock, but it also leaves Senator Pedro Espada Jr., a Bronx Democrat who crossed party lines last week, as the president of the Senate.

The judge denied the Democrats’ case and their motion for a stay, and the Democrats indicated that they would appeal. But by late afternoon, Democrats said they would not appeal.

“A judicially imposed resolution would be an improvident intrusion into the internal workings of a co-equal branch of government,” Justice McNamara said, adding, “Go across the street and resolve this for the people of New York.”

Republicans wrested power in the State Senate away from Democrats last Monday, but their thin majority collapsed a week later, leaving the chamber at 31 to 31 and its leadership picture more confused than ever.

The move came when Senator Hiram Monserrate, one of two Democrats who had sided with Republicans to give them a 32-to-30 majority, said he was switching his allegiance again and reaffirmed himself as a member of the Democratic caucus.

Shortly before the court ruling, Gov. David A. Paterson said Republicans had rejected a compromise he had proposed that would have had both parties return to the Senate chamber, without leadership, to act on a number of noncontroversial bills.

“My anxiety is that whoever wins or loses when the court rules will appeal this case,” he said. “That will lead to a stay, and it will lead to further delay.”

He said there was an urgent need for lawmakers to take up bills that various local governments are depending on to pay for their operations, including routine legislation to extend sales taxes or allow counties to issue bonds.

“I’m getting calls from leaders all around the state who are anxious that if there isn’t immediate action, that it actually hurts the financial stability of their governments,” Mr. Paterson said.
Republicans were claiming victory in the court ruling.

“Muchas gracias, El Presidente,” declared Dean G. Skelos, a Long Island Republican, during an appearance Tuesday afternoon with Mr. Espada.

“This truly is not just a historic day, but it’s been a historic week,” added Mr. Skelos, who was named Senate majority leader last week in a power sharing arrangement with Mr. Espada.
Mr. Espada, for his part, said the Democratic caucus needed to return to work. “When your case gets dismissed, that’s about as unequivocal as the 15-0 Yankee win Sunday over the Mets,” he said. Republicans said they would attempt to resume the Senate session, a step they cannot accomplish unless at least one Democrat besides Mr. Espada returns to the chamber.

On Monday, an air of unreality continued to prevail in Albany. No legislation was taken up in the Senate, with only four days remaining in the session and several major issues unresolved.

“Welcome to the circus,” one Democratic senator, Bill Perkins of Manhattan, told a colleague as they gathered for a news conference.

Mr. Monserrate said at the news conference that he was returning to the Democratic fold because he was satisfied that a new leader chosen by Democrats, Senator John L. Sampson of Brooklyn, would unify party members and bring about action on important legislation.

Senate Republicans tried to hold a session, but it was essentially a photo opportunity. They were one vote shy of the 32 needed for a quorum and left after a couple of speeches. Democratic senators have declined to enter the Senate chambers since the Republican-led coalition took power.

Last week, they installed Mr. Espada as president of the Senate and Mr. Skelos as majority leader in a coup that shocked the capital. Democrats challenged the legitimacy of the move, but Mr. Espada and the Republicans said they believed they would prevail in court.

“We’re very clear that the vote on Monday electing yours truly as president pro tempore, electing Senator Skelos majority leader, should hold and will hold,” Mr. Espada said Monday evening.

Adding to the confusion, Democrats chose Senator Sampson as the leader of their caucus, in a move that was a concession to Mr. Monserrate, who had insisted on the ouster of Malcolm A. Smith as majority leader. But because they no longer had the 32 votes needed to install Mr. Sampson as president of the Senate and majority leader, Democrats named Mr. Sampson “caucus leader” and left Mr. Smith as their titular leader.

“Clearly, after what happened last week, we have to make some adjustments in how we operate,” Mr. Smith said during the news conference held by Senate Democrats.

“You can look at John Sampson as C.E.O.,” he added, saying that Mr. Sampson would run the caucus’s “day-to-day business.” Pressed for details of the arrangement, Mr. Smith said, “It is what it is.”

It remained unclear when the Senate would return to work and take up key issues that await them, including mayoral control of New York City’s schools and same-sex marriage.
Even if senators came back, it could be difficult to get much done. The lieutenant governor breaks ties in the Senate, but that office was left vacant when Mr. Paterson ascended to the governorship last year in the midst of Eliot Spitzer’s prostitution scandal.

At the Democrats’ news conference, Mr. Smith looked on impassively as Mr. Monserrate saluted his “good friend John Sampson” and hailed the leadership change.

“I also want to send a message to the voters in my district, and the borough of Queens and downstate, in the neighborhoods that I grew up in throughout the city,” Mr. Monserrate said.

“The voters in my district sent this ex-marine, this ex-beat cop, to come up here and shake things up, and I’m not walking away from that.”

Democratic leaders said Mr. Monserrate had been offered no privileges or special incentives to return.

Even as he announced his reversal, Mr. Monserrate, who was indicted in March on charges of assaulting his companion with a broken glass, hardly disavowed his vote of a week ago.

“I took a vote, the vote was public, I believe some of you took pictures of it,” he said.
Republicans were stung but unsurprised by Mr. Monserrate’s flip-flop.

“If you lie with dogs, sometimes you get fleas,” said Senator Martin J. Golden of Brooklyn.

Mr. Skelos said he still believed the leadership vote taken a week ago was binding.

Justice McNamara, who on Friday ordered the two sides to try to settle their differences, again urged leaders to come up with a compromise, and he ordered them to return Tuesday.

Democrats were asking Justice McNamara to reaffirm that Mr. Smith is the president and majority leader of the Senate, while Republicans asserted that they were in control of the body.
Mr. Espada, for his part, remained defiant, as he spoke to reporters in a driving rain, flanked by a gathering of his supporters, who had been bused up to the Capitol from his Bronx district and who chanted, “Pedro! Pedro!”

Mr. Espada insisted that regardless of Mr. Monserrate’s reversal, he was still the Senate president. “What happened here last Monday was transformational,” he said. “It counts.”
Highlighting the surreal quality of the day, Mr. Espada was asked by a reporter during the demonstration to comment on the continuing investigation into his campaign finances.
He responded in a matter-of-fact fashion: “Which one?”

The offices of Andrew M. Cuomo, the state attorney general, and Robert L. Johnson, the Bronx district attorney, have been investigating Mr. Espada for several months, and he has been fined more than $74,000 by the State Board of Elections and New York City’s Campaign Finance Board for failing to make campaign disclosures and misusing the resources of a nonprofit group he runs, the Soundview HealthCare Network.

The political terrain was shifting so rapidly that even T-shirts worn by his supporters were out of date. Several dozen were in white shirts promoting a “Reform Coalition” with the names of Espada, Skelos and Monserrate in smaller lettering.

When a reporter pointed out to a demonstrator, Cheryl Williams, 48, that Mr. Monserrate was no longer with the coalition, Ms. Williams looked at her shirt. “Actually,” she said, “we didn’t have a chance to remove it.”

Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company

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