Monday, July 6, 2009
State Sens. Dean Skelos, R-Rockville ,left, and Thomas Libous, R-Binghamton look excited yesterday as the extraordinary session of the state Senate got underway. The session lasted three minutes.
Paterson Talks Tough, Albany Circus Nears Month Mark
Governor may be learning to love Espada however
By MICHAEL GORMLEY
Gov. David Paterson said yesterday that he'll use a statewide tour this week to turn up the heat on senators who remain gridlocked in a monthlong power struggle.
"I have taken advantage of my travel to speak to New Yorkers directly," Paterson said after the Senate adjourned again following another extraordinary session he called.
He said in separate events over the weekend that New Yorkers' message was clear: "Don't let them off the hook. Make them stay and work."
The tough talk comes as it was reported that the governor may be closer to accepting turncoat Democrat Bronx Sen. Pedro Espada Jr. as the leader of the divided Senate.
"Whatever you think of [Espada], he has been given the highest position on the coalition side," Paterson told the Daily News. "You may not like him, but you have to respect him. That is where he is."
No bills were debated or passed in Sunday's session, which wrapped up in a record three minutes..
Two Senate factions continue to refuse to recognize each other's leaders so no legislative action was made on critical bills, including some that would extend laws that expired during the standoff.
Paterson, a Democrat, said he doesn't see either side budging in the conflict, which began with a coup June 8 by a Republican-dominated coalition versus the Democratic majority.
Since that meeting, both sides have sought to first work out the mechanics of a power-sharing arrangement, such as reworking the committee system and how to assign bills to a vote.
In an interview Sunday, Paterson called that "avoidance behavior."
"You can't do anything until you settle the leadership," he said.
Paterson said he will continue to act as a mediator if asked, but he again was critical of both sides and said he continues to push to withhold their paychecks and expense checks until they return to a working session. Paterson, who plans to run for election in 2010, has seen his record-low poll numbers rise when he was sharply critical of the senators, who he said have "ground government to a halt."
The jammed Senate is now evenly split after one of the dissidents defected back to the Democratic conference. Action on critical bills has been stymied for weeks.
Senators' staffs are trying to negotiate a compromise in closed-door talks begun after Paterson met with leaders from both sides on Thursday to start mediating a power-sharing solution. Senators from both sides welcomed the offer to mediate and said they were pleased Paterson had stopped criticizing the Senate for the standoff, which consumed the last two productive weeks of the 2009 regular legislative session.
"Talks are continuing, and our goal remains the same: Come to a workable solution that allows the Senate to get back to passing critical legislation," said Austin Shafran, a spokesman for the Democratic conference.
Mark Hansen, a spokesman for the GOP coalition, said Sunday evening that talks continue, but he had no further comment.
Senate Democrats meanwhile have managed to pull together support for a bill that would extend mayoral control over schools. But, of course, that legislation is contingent upon the divided Senate agreeing upon a method of sharing power, according to the New York Post.
Senate Democrats have agreed to drop a provision that Mayor Bloomberg's appointees to the Panel for Education Policy.would serve fixed terms -- instead of at the mayor's pleasure. For now, the Senate appears poised to adopt a measure similar to the one that passed in the state Assembly, according to the Post.
No Paychecks for You Paterson tells state treasurer to freeze senators' direct-deposit pay
By JENNIFER MILLMAN, Jul 6, 2009
Enough is enough.
Gov. David Paterson has had enough of state senators' clownish refusal to get back to business – so much so that he's launching a direct assault on their bank accounts.
Here's a look at some of the key players behind the Albany power struggle.
Paterson has asked the state treasurer to block direct-deposit payments to the senators' accounts, and plans to ask a judge Monday whether they should be paid at all, according to The New York Daily News.
Efforts to stop paying the boorish senators have already been set in motion, with State Controller Thomas DiNapoli asking a court to determine whether his office has the authority to withhold their paychecks beginning on Wednesday.
While DiNapoli is asking a judge whether his office has the power to block payment, Paterson is taking things to a higher level.
"We want a direct ruling on whether it's right or wrong for them to be paid when our position is they have abdicated their role," the governor told the Daily News.
The Senate has remained deadlocked 31-31 for nearly a month since two dissident Democrats joined a Republican-backed coup. Sen. Hiram Monserrate, of Queens, switched back to his party a few days later, leaving the chamber in a state of paralysis from which it has yet to recover. The senators haven't conducted any real state business since June 8.
"It's also our contention that they have been derelict in their duties," Paterson said, according to the Daily News. "Government has been shut down by the Senate. Cities and counties are losing money off of this."
The lame duck Senate has left some key pieces of legislation on the table, including bills to increase the sales tax in several locales, which would provide communities millions of dollars in much needed tax revenue.
Paterson's argument is simple: If the senators can't reach an accord on who presides over the chamber, there's no one to sign off on their paychecks.
Apparently undeterred by the threat of losing their cash flow (or intent to keep it for doing nothing), senators argue that Paterson and DiNapoli are way out of line – that their jobs include much more than voting on legislation and that both parties have worked together when a judge ordered them to, according to the Daily News. They admit, however, that they refused to work together when Paterson was the one telling them to do so.
Paterson says the senators' argument has no merit whatsoever.
"They come in for two minutes, stare at the ceiling, wish each other happy birthday, salute the flag for Independence Day and go home," he said. "We see that as they're convening, but not deliberating. They're present, but not working. No work, no pay."
Pointing to the fact that the state can stop paying senators if they don't pass a budget by April 1, Paterson says the same should hold when it comes to failure to meet local monetary deadlines.
Both parties continued to negotiate yesterday, although the leaders of the warring factions did not meet directly with Paterson, who had arbitrated the discussions last week. Senators from both sides say they plan to meet more in the coming days, but none say a deal is imminent.
From Betsy Combier:
Dear Governor -
How come you gave huge raises to your staff in February?