New York senators, including Suzi Oppenheimer from Mamaroneck, are grappling with horrendous frustration and disappointment in Albany and increasingly strident criticism back home.
Things appeared to be clearing up on Tuesday, June 30. The Senate had been deadlocked since June 8 with the two parties tied 31-31 after one Democrat defected (and stayed) with the Republican caucus. (See: Two Senators for Mamaroneck?) But with the aid of one wandering Republican on Tuesday, the Democrats convened a quorum and passed a raft of “non-controversial” bills, including many requiring passage by the end of the month to prevent the loss of billions in tax revenue or federal aid.
However, the clouds rolled back in by the end of the night. The wandering Senator Frank Padavan was vociferously disputing his inclusion in the quorum. And a wavering Governor David Paterson was vowing not to sign any bills passed in the disputed session.
There is no resolution as of Thursday, July 2.
The June 30 end of day disappointment was a shock to Senator Suzi Oppenheimer, who had called the Gazette around 7:30 pm Tuesday to announce the earlier good news.
”By Senate rules, you can’t put your toe in the chamber without being counted,” said Senator Oppenheimer. And without further action on the quorum, it stands until the end of the day, she said.
Further, she asserted, the stroll was no accident. “We are assured he did that on purpose,” she said.
Of course, in Albany, nothing is this simple.
The bills that passed the Senate had already passed in the Assembly and would require only the governor’s signature to take effect. At one point, Governor Paterson said he would accept the bills for signature if he received affidavits from at least three people who saw Senator Padavan in chamber: “We already have eleven,” said Senator Oppenheimer.
At this point, however, the governor is refusing to accept the bills and the Senate Democrats are assessing their legal options. “The Senate rules are the Senate rules,” said Senator Oppenheimer. “And for the most part, they have been upheld in the courts.”
Oppenheimer vs Feld Redux?
Back home in the district, Mayor Liz Feld, who ran unsuccessfully for the Senate last year, lambasted Senator Oppenheimer.
“The fact that [Suzi Oppenheimer] and every one of her Senate colleagues has the nerve to cash a paycheck without showing up for work is nothing short of criminal,” said Mayor Feld, after criticizing a recent mailer from the senator in which she describes her frustration. “New York’s unemployment rate is staggering and our own Senators feel no qualms about paying themselves. She is not a victim of “an impasse in the Senate (that) remains unresolved.” She is one of the perpetrators. The Republican and Democrat Senators in Albany have one thing in common: they’re both a disgrace.”
Mayor Feld added, “Like every other Senator in Albany, she has the power and the ability to bring this work stoppage to a halt. It would only take one Senator to show up at one of the sessions to get some business done.”
Senator Oppenheimer replied: ”Mrs. Feld’s criticism is misplaced. She should direct her ire at her good friend and main sponsor in her election campaign, the Republican leader Senator Dean Skelos. It is his failed coup attempt that has brought state government to a standstill. With the help of one Republican, Democrats passed critical legislation on Tuesday to transfer over $3 billion in federal education dollars to New York, and extend the Westchester Sales Tax. It was Mrs. Feld’s sponsors who failed to be present in the chamber and fulfill their legislative duties.”
“I hold the Republicans and Democrats responsible for the Senate impasse. Bi-partisan cooperation is the only way to move forward,” continued the senator. “I will continue to work in my office, as is my habit, from 7:45 am to 11:00 pm, everyday whether paid or not.” said the senator.
In a final rejoinder, Mayor Feld said, “This isn’t about Republicans or Democrats. It’s about incumbents,” She concluded, “As far as I’m concerned Suzi and Dean can show each other the door.”