At least part of the current deadlock, confusion and uproar reigning in Albany might have been avoided if New York State were not missing its lieutenant governor, who in the role of president of the Senate can cast a tie-breaking vote.
Legislation introduced in 2007 and in 2009 by New York Assemblyman George Latimer, who represents Larchmont and Mamaroneck, would have allowed the governor to appoint a replacement for the lieutenant governor, subject to approval by the Senate. Instead, the position remains vacant. (See: Latimer Pushes Bill on Replacement for Lt. Governor.)
And a tie exists: The Democrats began the month in control of the Senate with 32 members. They lost two on June 8, (Pedro Espada, Jr. and Hiram Monseratte) and gained one back a few days later (Mr. Monseratte) for the current total of 31. The Republicans are at 31, with Mr. Espada voting in the Republican caucus.
During the brief time they held the majority on June 8, the Republicans elected Mr. Espada temporary president of the Senate. Now Mr. Espada is saying he can break a tie by voting twice - once as a senator and again as president pro tempore.
Of course, the Democrats are not in agreement. They have proposed a power-sharing arrangement that would allow the Senate to vote on important legislation before the end of the session on June 22. Questions of who is in control would be resolved later. (See: Oppenheimer Calls for BiPartisan Control of Senate to End Logjam)
As of Thursday, June 18, the stalemate continued.
And what about the Mr. Latimer’s legislation?
“It’s on hold,” said Mr. Latimer, reached on the floor of the Assembly (where business is ongoing). “The Assembly leadership seems to prefer a bill that would allow the lieutenant governor to be selected by a joint meeting of the Assembly and the Senate,” he explained. “I oppose that bill.”
Mr. Latimer believes the governor should have a lieutenant governor that agrees with him on important issues of governance. “You don’t want two people in the executive administration to disagree – it would create more chaos,” said Mr. Latimer.
Both bills are still in the Assembly and, should they clear that hurdle, are still subject to Senate approval. “That is questionable, at best,” said Mr. Latimer.
“This is the reason why you fix the leaky roof before it rains,” noted Mr. Latimer, reiterating the observation he made in 2008 after Lt. Governor David Paterson stepped in as governor for Elliot Spitzer, leaving the vacancy that remains today.
“I don’t think it could be any worse that what we’re looking at now,” concluded Mr. Latimer.