The mess in the State Senate is starting to have serious consequences. After a three-week deadlock over control of that body, the Senate today watched a number of deadlines pass. Several jurisdictions had hoped to extend or increase certain taxes to fill budget holes, and there is confusion over who controls New York City schools. Meanwhile, a bill to increase jobless benefits cannot be passed, power rates for many local businesses are likely to spike because subsidies have expired, and several local jurisdictions are warning that they may have to raise property taxes and fire local employees, including police.
Various members have noted that they are "embarrassed" and "frustrated" by what's happened. There is a simple solution to getting us out of this morass, and Senator Frank Padavan may have inadvertently provided it when he walked into the Senate chamber yesterday looking for a cup of coffee. Democrats claimed they had a momentary quorum, and that all subsequent matters voted on should count.
While nobody seems to be buying this claim, it raises an obvious question: why doesn't one member, working with the Governor, break this logjam -- at least for non-controversial items that will allow local jurisdictions to balance their budgets.
After all, every session for the remainder of the month will be an extraordinary session. The Governor sets the agenda, and article IV of the state constitution dictates that Senate can only vote on those items he gives them permission to address. A member of either party, Democrat or Republican, can simply wander over to the other side and LET them have a quorum for the day. Important legislation that everyone agrees needs to be passed can be passed.
In this scenario, the Senate can keep fighting over who gets to call himself Majority Leader until next year -- but important legislation, thousands of jobs and the economy of the State would no longer be held hostage by the bickering factions.
Of course, this would mean earning the wrath of one party leader or another -- but all for the good of the people of New York, something that frustrated voters would certainly understand. Can we have a volunteer?
(Drafted with Eric Lane)