Republicans and Democrats were in the Senate chamber for the first time in weeks, but they continued the same dispute that has stalled the Senate for more than two weeks – who had control over the Senate.
Both Republican and Democratic Senate leaders began speaking simultaneously during the session on Tuesday, June 23, acting as if they were the Majority Party in control of the Senate.
Republicans brought up a list of bills, which they contend passed by a 62-0 margin. No Democrats voted yes or no on the bills so it is still unclear if the bills’ passage was legal. Republicans then adjourned their session prior to any of Governor David Paterson’s bills making it to the chamber. When Paterson’s bills arrived the Democrats began voting on some of those bills, but the Republicans had already adjourned their session.
“The conduct today was farcical,” said an irate Paterson, at a 4:45 p.m. news conference on Tuesday, June 23, vowing to call the Senators back into a special session everyday – including weekends and the Fourth of July – until they return to doing the “people’s business.”
“I feel they should be punished for what they have done,” Paterson said, emphasizing that the senators need to remember, “They work for the people of New York and not for themselves.”
Republicans and Democrats continued to blame each other for the chaos that ensued inside the Chamber.
“The Republicans did one thing and it’s the same thing, and it’s the same thing they’ve been doing for the past two weeks and that’s make a mockery of the chamber,” said Austin Shafran, a spokesperson for Queens State Senator Malcolm Smith.
Some Democratic Senators entered Senate chambers around 12:30 p.m. – more than an hour ahead of when Republicans said they would come in and more than two hours ahead of Paterson’s special session. After entering the chamber, Democrats locked the chamber doors for more than an hour before opening them to Republican colleagues where the two simultaneous sessions began.
The initial chaos in Albany erupted on Monday, June 8, when Bronx Democrat Pedro Espada Jr. and Queens Democrat Senator Hiram Monserrate voted with the Republicans in favor of a new coalition government – flipping the Senate Majority from 32-30 Democrats to 32-30 Republicans. However, a week later Monserrate flipped back to supporting the Democrats, creating a 31 to 31 tie and creating a stalemate that has continued through today.
While the Senate has not gotten anything done legislatively for two weeks, the State Assembly worked late into the night on Monday June 22 and acted on 202 bills. This included passing legislation to protect schools from penalties for lost days due to the H1N1 virus, ban artificial trans fats and require calorie posting and protecting consumers from unsolicited telemarketing sales calls and enforce the Do-Not-Call law.
The Assembly has also passed bills in favor of mayoral control of schools and legislation that would allow New York City to increase its sales tax by .5 percent – something that the Senate has not acted on – which is critical for the city’s budget that was finalized last week.