WXXI Local Stories
Wed July 1, 2009
Paterson: Senate Will Spend July 4 in Albany
By Karen DeWitt
Albany, New York – The two warring factions in the State Senate stand off continued making their cases Wednesday, one day after a number of key laws expired. But neither side came closer to an agreement to end the gridlock.
It seemed like the summer rerun season as the coalition of thirty Republicans and one Democrat continued to argue that the June 8th leadership vote was legal and binding, and Senate Democrats insisted that a June 30th vote on over 100 key bills was valid.
The Republican dominated faction, led by Senators Pedro Espada, who was elected President Pro Temp in the coup and Senator Dean Skelos who was elected Majority Leader, called the bluff of Senate Democrats and scheduled an open, public leaders meeting to try to work out a power sharing agreement to run the Senate. The Democrats refused to attend, saying they'd rather meet on Thursday, instead.
"We are disappointed by their lack of attendance," said Senator Skelos.
They then showed video clips on the June 8th vote, which Senator Espada says clearly demonstrates that his side was in the right, and that the vote must be respected.
"I will not back off of the June 8th election," said Espada. "Can anyone in good conscience argue that that didn't happen?"
Senator Espada says he'd even be willing to hold another leadership vote in the Senate. The candidates would be himself and Senator Malcolm Smith, who continues to claim he's the President Pro Temp and Majority Leader.
Despite Smith retaining the title of the leader of the Democrats, the Senator has been seen less frequently in public in recent days. It was Democratic Conference Leader Senator John Sampson who explained why Democratic leaders were no shows at the meeting.
"There needs to be public negotiations, but not negotiations where you have video tapes of what happened on June 8th," Sampson said. "This is about statesmanship, versus gamesmanship".
And three other Democratic Senators held a news conference to once again argue why they think votes on dozens of bills in the Senate chamber Tuesday are valid.
The Democrats claimed they had a quorum when Senator Frank Padavan, a Republican from Queens, accidentally walked across the Senate chamber in search of a beverage from the member's lounge.
Senator Craig Johnson, a Democrat from Long Island, said Padavan should have known better.
"You walk in that chamber, you are counted," said Johnson. "I'm sorry but a 37 year veteran knows his way around the Capitol. If you want to get a free cup of coffee, you know how to walk around the Capitol."
The Republicans say they don't recognize the meetings held in the chamber by the 31 Democrats as legitimate sessions, and so their members cannot be counted as present.
The Democratic Senators stance has already put them in opposition to Governor David Paterson, who's says he won't sign the bills, because their legality is in question.
"I don't want to be the arbiter of the dispute," Paterson said.
Now, the Senators admit, the state Assembly is balking, as well. According to the rules of the legislature, bills are sent back to the house that first approved them, in this case the Assembly. When a Senate clerk tried to deliver the bills to the Assembly Tuesday, they were rejected. An Assembly spokeswoman says talks are ongoing between the two legislative houses and the governor about how to avoid any technical problems that may arise from the dispute.
The two feuding factions did appear in the chamber together briefly, to attend the 9th special session called by Governor Paterson. And both sides did agree on something, they agreed to adjourn the session without voting on any of the bills that Governor Paterson had requested.
Governor Paterson says he's ordered special sessions each day through July 6th, meaning that Senators will likely have to spend July 4th weekend at the Capitol.