If one wants to make sense of all the madness brewing from last week’s Republican hijacking of the State Senate, southern Brooklyn State Senator Carl Kruger has a clear and concise explanation.
But be warned. You may not like his answer.
“The only thing sure about Albany is it’s position on the map. Everything else is up for discussion,” Kruger said, describing life in the Senate amid the loggerhead of lunatics vying for control of the legislative body — a fight that continued well into this week.
Throughout the headline−grabbing ups and downs that involved everything from protests to closed−door meetings and courtroom dramas, Brooklyn legislators stood at the center of this raging storm this week, with one Brooklynite being called upon to hold the Democrats together.
With Majority Leader Malcolm Smith’s leadership being called into question, Canarsie State Senator John Sampson was elevated to a new leadership position where he would be responsible for overseeing the Senate’s day to day operations.
Political insiders said that Sampson, who is being called Senate Democratic Conference Leader, is basically the new majority leader without the official title.
To recap a week of confusion, Senate Republicans blind−sided everyone and wrested control of the Senate when Democrats Pedro Espada, Jr. of the Bronx and Hiram Monserrate of Queens agreed to caucus with the Republicans.
Outraged Democrats called the power switch illegal, and refused to hand over the keys to the Senate chamber. All Senate business stalled for the rest of the week as Democrats went to court to try and nullify the new Republican leadership.
Yet everything changed Monday when Monserrate flip−flopped and said that he was back with the Democrats, meaning that the 62−member Senate will be completely deadlocked 31−31 over important issues like gay marriage and school governance, especially since there is no Lieutenant Governor to break tie votes.
Monserrate’s double defection did nothing to alleviate more important questions — such as who the heck is running this asylum, anyway?
Sampson, Kruger and Smith were among a power−sharing discussion on Monday night in which Democrats proposed that Democratic and Republican presidents of the Senate alternate daily, floor leaders alternate daily and a six−member Senate conference committee comprising three Democrats and three Republicans work together to determine which legislation is voted upon.
Republicans didn’t bite.
When the two groups couldn’t agree on a compromise, the upstate judge ruling over the fiasco dismissed the Democrats’ case. Democrats said that they are not going to appeal.
“Our conference has come together to make a commitment to the people of New York to uphold those Democratic principles and put the people’s business above politics and I strongly urge Senate Republicans and Pedro Espada to join us and get back to governing,” Sampson said in a statement. “Whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, the people of New York have put their faith in us to lead. If Senate Republicans and Pedro Espada are serious about reform and getting results, they will put people before politics, like we have.”
Some Downtown State Senators agree with Sampson and hope that everyone will get back to work soon.
“With the clock ticking on a lot of important work, I have been pushing for the Senate to adopt a bipartisan operating agreement, modeled on what other states have done in similar situations,” said Brooklyn Heights State Senator Daniel Squadron. “It’s not perfect, but it is a path forward to quickly pass vital legislation. We can’t let the madness in Albany overwhelm the fact that the laws we pass have a deep impact on our constituents and our state.”
Still, the pain and confusion of the last week still lingers.
“We do not practice ‘I got ya’ government in America,” said Fort Greene⁄Park Slope State Senator Eric Adams, who is outraged by the coup. “No matter what level of government, if you have a problem with the leadership, you should bring it to the floor. You vote to change government.”
Facing the new wacky world order in front of him, Adams only has one message to his colleagues in the State Senate.