What happened? Pedro Espada Jr (D-Bronx) and Hiram Monserrate (D-Queens)
decided to caucus with the Republicans to form a Republican majority.
The Republicans named Espada temporary President of the Senate and
Republican Dean Skelos of Nassau County Vice President and Majority
Leader. Skelos was majority leader in 2008 prior to the election.
A resolution electing the new leadership was introduced at 3pm, and
ruled out of order by the senator presiding over the chamber, Neil
Breslin (D-Albany). Sen. Thomas Libous (R-Binghamton) then shouted for a
roll-call vote on that order, which, after considerable legal huddling
by Democrats, was permitted. In the far corner of the room, Espada and
Monserrate, his seat-mate, rose to join the Republicans on the other
side of the chamber.
At that point, trying to stop the vote, Breslin declared the session
adjourned and stormed out. Power and internet service were turned off,
and the in-house television station that carries Senate proceedings live
in the Capitol went dark. All that appeared on the screen was a still
photo of the Senate chamber and the words "Please stand by." Guards
threatened to lock the door. Down the hall, state troopers began
guarding the Democrats in a closed-door strategy session.
At that point, Libous secured a vote to put Sen. George Winner
(R-Elmira) in charge of the proceedings. The remaining 32 members -- a
majority in the 62-member house -- then ruled the move by Democrats to
adjourn out of order. They gaveled back in, pushed through the
leadership change and swore in the new leaders. Five minutes later, the
power was restored, and revealed the deposed Democratic leadership in
the Senate replaced by its new authorities.
However, the Democrats refused to accept the vote, and claim they are
still lawfully in charge. Secretary of the Senate Angelo Aponte, a
Democrat, has locked the chamber and refuses to surrender the keys. The
Democrats have vowed to keep the Senate from meeting unless their
leadership is reinstated. They plan to challenge the vote in court. The
Republicans say they will simply meet elsewhere, outdoors if necessary.
Who else is reminded of the coup that ended the Soviet Union? Guess we
still have the most dysfunctional state government in the country.
Business as usual for New York politics -- as Senator Betty Little
(R-Glens Falls) put it, "The biggest surprise is that the plan wasnít
leaked ahead of time."
The new majority passed some rules changes, including term limits for
Senate leadership positions, measures to equalize earmark, staff and
resource allocations, and a provision allowing a majority of Senators to
bring legislation to the floor for a vote -- previously the Senate
leadership controlled the process. Many of these changes were sought by
Paychex founder and billionaire Tom Golisano.
Full list of rules changes:
Skelos’s statement + rules changes - New York Politics Capitol Confidential - Albany Times Union - timesunion.com
Effect of Stalled Legislation
The state legislature must approve any county sales tax over 3% every
two years. Many counties, including Monroe County, charge 4%. If the
Senate does not reconvene before the session ends June 22nd, many
counties will face budget shortfalls.
Paterson complained that the battle stalls progress on legislation he
wants to cap state spending, curb property tax increases by local
governments and allow same sex marriages.
A law giving the New York City mayor greater control of New York City
schools is scheduled to expire at the end of the month unless the full
Legislature acts. Senate Democrats have sought to take away some of
Mayor Michael Bloomberg's authority while maintaining overall mayoral
control. But Bloomberg and the Senate's Republican conference have been
very close on policy, and the billionaire mayor has funded many of their
campaigns. Bloomberg has given New York State Republican Senate campaign
committees more than $1.3 million since 2003, according to New York
State Board of Elections records.
The new majority has released a calendar of bills to be voted upon -- if
they're able to meet somewhere other than the Senate chambers. The list
includes authorization for 10 counties to increase sales taxes, allowing
tax-increment bonds backed by property taxes levied by school districts,
and authorizing Westchester County to sell bonds through electronic
bidding in a three-year pilot program. There is no companion
tax-increment bond bill in the Assembly.
A number of gun control bills had passed the Assembly and appeared
likely to pass the Senate, but appear to be dead at this time.
Interestingly, the media has been completely silent regarding these
bills, even as they detail the many other bills now in doubt.
Tom Golisano claims his PAC, Responsible New York, played a major role
in the coup. "Responsible New York, particularly Steve Pidgeon. We went
to work and Steve brought these factions together over a period of six
or seven weeks and today was culminated by the announcement that we have
a new majority leader in the Senate and they passed these reforms like,
easy," Golisano said.
Mr. Golisano played a role in negotiating original deal under which
Espada and Monserrate -- along with Ruben DŪaz (D-Bronx) and Senator
Carl Kruger (D-Brooklyn) -- gave their support to Mr. Smith. The deal
included making Espada Senate President, but other Democrats refused to
go along with the plan. The rules changes were also a priority for Tom
Golisano. G. Steve Pigeon, his political advisor, said Monday that
Golisano felt betrayed by Smith because the Democratic leader had not
delivered the overhaul of Senate rules he had promised upon taking
power. "He feels very strongly that he backed Malcolm Smith, and Smith
didnít keep his word, and didnít make the changes he said he would,"
said Pigeon. "What you will see now is power-sharing, real reform."
Golisano spent more than $4 million last fall helping Democrats take the
Senate. After becoming disillusioned with the Senate Democrats, he and
Pigeon spent several weeks helping the Republicans with the planned
coup. Sources say planning for the coup began six weeks ago in an Albany
bar called Red Square, in a meeting involving Pigeon, other Golisano
advisers, Skelos and Libous. By last week, Espada and Monserrate were on
board. In a town that canít keep a secret, this one was amazing: even
rank-and-file Republicans were not told what would happen Monday.
"It was obvious to us they werenít going to keep their commitment, and
that was very bad for New York State," Golisano said of Senate Democrats
in an interview. He called Monday "a great day for New York," and said
his disappointment with his financial investment with the Senate
Democrats helped force Mondayís coup. "It didnít materialize," Golisano
said of the donations he thought would fuel change in Albany.