Thursday, June 11, 2009

NY state Senate in "diabolical" leadership spat: Governor

NY state Senate in diabolical leadership spat: Governor
By Joan Gralla
NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York's legislative session may have to be extended due to a "diabolical situation" that has Democrats and Republicans both claiming to lead the state Senate, Governor David Paterson said on Wednesday.
Lawmakers were due to adjourn in less than two weeks but many issues, from gay marriage to the state's property tax relief plan, are all hanging in the balance due to the political impasse, the Democrat told Albany reporters.
Paterson urged the Senate to hold another leadership vote or get the courts to settle the matter.
The Senate Democrats said they will ask a court to stop the GOP from putting their "purported coup" into effect, which could further delay the resolution of many pending issues.
The Democrats in January named their first Senate majority leader in four decades after gaining a majority in November's elections. But on Monday, two dissident Democrats said they would conference with the Republicans and helped re-elect former Republican Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos to run the chamber.
A spokesman for Democratic Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith said the GOP coup had broken Senate rules and state law by usurping a public officer, Smith. In a statement, he said Smith vowed not to re-enter the chamber "to be governed by unlawful rules."
Smith ruled the chamber by a 32 to 30 majority until he lost two members of his conference. "We plan to file an action for a temporary injunction to enjoin the Republicans from illegitimately usurping authority from the people of New York," his spokesman added.
Senate Democrats have locked the chamber, and Paterson said he would not force the doors open because that would interfere in the "elective process."
Referring to the agency that runs state offices, he said: "We could bring in the Office of General Services and Homeland Security to blast through the Senate but this is getting a little ridiculous; they've got to act like adults."
Skelos, who hailed his new leadership accord as a bipartisan reform coalition, said he and the Senate's new Democratic president, Pedro Espada, would take up a host of bills, many of which affect cities, counties and towns around the state.
Their list includes, for example, normal extensions often seen near the end of legislative sessions, such as allowing the City of Yonkers to continue collecting a mortgage recording tax that otherwise will expire.
Skelos' choice of Espada as Senate president raised ethics concerns because he is being probed by the state attorney general over a non-profit group he ran. The second Democrat who broke ranks, Senator Hiram Monserrate, faces felony charges for allegedly assaulting his girlfriend.
Monserrate later said the coalition was trying to win over more Democrats and had postponed the session until Thursday.
Asked why he had not brokered a deal between the warring parties, as former Republican Governor Nelson Rockefeller did in a similar fix, Paterson said: "I don't know if that was for the good of the process or what Rockefeller wanted."
(Additional reporting by Elizabeth Flood Morrow in Albany; Editing by Dan Grebler)

Source: Reuters

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