Paterson Sets Deadline For Senate Deal
ALBANY, N.Y. -- Gov. David Paterson got involved in the New York senate leadership row Monday, giving lawmakers an afternoon deadline to come up with a power-sharing agreement.
An official in Gov. Paterson's administration told the Associated Press on condition of anonymity that the governor gave the senate until Monday afternoon to come up with a plan. If there's no plan, Gov. Paterson will call a meeting at 3 p.m. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to make the directive public.
Gov. Paterson took the action because he said the senate needs to convene this last whole week of session to pass important bills. Legislative leaders, however, don't have to attend a meeting called by the governor.
In court Monday morning, state Supreme Court Justice Thomas McNamara ordered both sides to again try to work out a power structure. He has said if they can't agree, he will decide who will control the senate.
The Democratic conference's attorney said Democrats are trying to devise a power-sharing arrangement, but a lawyer for the Republicans said he wasn't sure if a power-sharing agreement is possible.
Last week, Democratic Sens. Hiram Monserrate, of Queens, and Pedro Espada, of the Bronx, joined 30 Republicans in a bid to replace the Democratic leadership they said was ineffective. The takeover, which installed Sen. Espada as senate president, froze the senate. The Democratic caucus refused to recognize the new leadership, tried to block Republicans from meeting and went to court to have Democrats restored to power.
Sen. Monserrate has sent mixed signals about his intentions.
After voting with Republicans on the takeover, he said he wouldn't vote on any legislation until more Democrats recognized the new leaders. The New York Daily News reported Monday that Sen. Monserrate was leaving the coalition and rejoining Democrats. "I'm coming home," Sen. Monserrate told the Daily News.
Sen. Espada, however, claimed in a statement issued by the Republican conference that Sen. Monserrate still supported him as president.
That's a critical distinction because Sen. Monserrate's return to the Democratic caucus would leave the senate in a 31-31 tie between the Democratic conference and the coalition of Sen. Espada and 30 Republicans.
A spokesman for senate Democrats, Austin Shafran, couldn't immediately confirm Sen. Monserrate's return. Sen. Monserrate stayed behind closed doors and did not return calls seeking comment. A morning press conference was delayed and expected to start early Monday afternoon.
The 31-31 tie is possible in the 62-seat senate because there is no lieutenant governor to break deadlocks. The lieutenant governor elected in 2006, Democrat David Paterson, succeeded Gov. Eliot Spitzer last year when Mr. Spitzer resigned in disgrace amid a prostitution investigation.
Democrats claim the coalition's fast parliamentary revolt was done after shocked Democrats hastily adjourned the session, making it invalid.
The coalition planned to open the senate session at 3 p.m. The doors to the chamber were unlocked Monday morning.
Sen. Monserrate still faces a charge of assaulting his girlfriend in a slashing incident. If found guilty, he could lose his seat.