Unless you live in New York, you probably never hear what the state senate is doing. In fact, if you live here, there's a good chance you rarely hear about what's going on in the state senate. Until now, when it's been all over both local and national news.
It's got some playground bullying going on. Bear with the bit of background here; it gets funny, in a sad sort of way.
Last November, in keeping with what's been going on across the country, the face of the state senate shifted when Democrats were elected to 32 of the 62 seats.
Things started to get rough right off the bat, when three of those democrats had to be bribed with committee chairs in exchange for voting a democrat as senate leader, rather than a republican. The bribes were extended, then retracted, then I'm not sure, but democrat Malcolm Smith became majority leader, and the dems had a 32-30 majority.
Until June 8, when two democrats, Hiram Montserrate and Pedro Espada, jumped ship and 32 republicans voted Dean Skelos majority leader. The dems refused to recognize the change in leadership, and over the next two days, Montserrate returned to the dem camp and left the senate in a 31-31 deadlock.
Maybe this is a good time to mention that Montserrate is under indictment for allegedly assaulting his girlfriend, while Espada has been accused of violating some ethics something-or-other relating to campaign financing.
So at 31-31, with no clear leadership position and no quorum possible unless people from both parties show up, nothing's getting done. Here's where it gets fun.
One day early on, both parties decided they'd hold their own sessions, so they met separately in the same chamber.
Another day, they agreed on a 3 p.m. session. But the republicans had a secret plan to to meet at 2 p.m. and take the leadership positions so at least they'd appear to have the leadership roles. But the dems got wind of it, showed up at 12:30 (walking in through a back door) and took the podium. When the republicans walked in, they brought their own podium and gavel, and held session as if the democrats weren't sitting there.
They've had their ongoing disputes since then, and no business has been conducted. Gov. David Paterson has ordered a special session every day, so the senators can't go back to their districts; rather they tend to gavel in meetings then just gavel them out again.
The dems pulled another fast one last week, locking the front door to the lounge so that if any of the republicans wanted a cup of coffee, they'd have to walk through chambers. When one finally did, the 31 dems sitting in the senate chambers signed him in, making it 32 people present – a quorum. They began passing legislation by a voice vote (even though the republican by now was in the lounge having some joe).
Needless to say, Paterson opted not to sign the legislation.
So, we're still locked at 31-31, and senators get a $160 per diem when they're in Albany – which they've been required to be every day until this thing gets straightened out. The state comptroller isn't sure he's going to sign off on the paychecks, since they're not actually working.
I haven't been able to find a recall provision, and I haven't heard of anybody else having found one, so we might just be stuck with no movement and spending lots of money on nothing through the next election, which is in November of 2010.
In case you're wondering, this is what it takes to