With the State Senate aflame in controversy, Albany could be a pretty good place for a Fourth of July barbecue.
That’s what local State Senators are wondering now that it seems more and more evident that they will be spending this Independence Day upstate in yet another “extraordinary session” ordered by Governor David Paterson.
“I think we’ll still be up here,” Flatbush State Senator Kevin Parker told this paper Tuesday as the chaos in the chamber continues into its fourth week.
Reporting from his Albany office, Parker said that the Democratic senators managed to get some of “the people’s business” done on Tuesday, thanks to the appearance of Queens Republican State Senator Frank Padavan.
“[Padavan’s] presence constituted a quorum, so we proceeded to vote on 75 bills that saved the public $7 billion in tax incentives and programs that were going to sunset,” Parker said. Mayoral control of city schools was not brought up, he said.
But these days nothing ever goes smoothly in Albany. A few hours after the votes were cast, Padavan provided reporters with an affidavit claiming that he did not intend to participate and shouldn’t have been counted for the quorum. Without a quorum, all of the votes taken were moot, Republicans said.
But the Democrats have affidavits too.
“We have about seven people who saw him on the floor, including the clerk,” said Parker. “We believe that the quorum was valid and those bills counted.”
As this paper was going to press, Governor Paterson was questioning the validity of the bills.
Democrats and Republicans were also still at loggerheads over just who is in charge of the Senate.
The fight for control, it seems, is turning into a carnival act. In a twisted version of musical chairs (there’s only one chair and no music) Democratic senators are taking turns sitting on the Majority Leader’s seat in the chamber for fear that a Republican would run off with it in the dead of night.
At 6 a.m. Tuesday morning, it was Williamsburg State Senator Eric Martin Dilan’s turn on the throne.
Parker said that he hasn’t participated in this game, although he understands it.
“Without proper leadership from the Governor helping us get to a resolution, we are forced to do what we must preserve the sanctity of the chamber,” he said.
Aside from Padavan, there were no Republican Senators in that chamber Tuesday, even though the night before a judge had ordered both sides to show up.
Tuesday could have been the first official business day since June 8, when the Republicans welcomed Bronx State Senator Pedro Espada into their conference and tried to take the majority leader’s spot.
Each day Sampson goes into a closed door meeting with Republican leaders to hammer out a leadership structure in the wake of the coup,
He said the Democrats are offering a bipartisan agreement that would allow everyone to get back to work, but Republican State Senate Leader Dean Skelos and Espada won’t back away from the leadership positions they attained during the coup.
“We just want to move the people’s agenda,” said Sampson. Apparently, so do the Republicans.
State Senator Marty Golden of Bay Ridge, a Republican, said this week that he backed the coup because the new Democrat majority was “destroying New York and everything we have worked for.”
“New York State was being driven over the cliff and someone needed to pull the emergency brake,” he said.
“The Democrats promised to protect New Yorkers and open up the legislative process so that the people could be an active part of their government,” Golden said. “Things did change but they got worse. They got much worse.”
Sampson, however, remembers the last five months the Democrats were in power differently.
“Marty Golden and his Republican interests threw us all off the cliff many years ago,” he said. “[The Republicans] put us in the debt we were faced with when we took control and now he does nothing but throw bombs and then react to the explosions.”
With this kind of “understanding,” the State Senate could be in session on Labor Day.