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When things look bleaker than they already are in Albany, Democrats in the State Senate are now looking to a Canarsien for solace.
And, despite all of the madness that has befallen the Senate chamber of late, State Senator John Sampson stands firm in one belief.
“Families squabble,” he said, “Eventually everything is going to work itself out.”
That’s the word the new Senate Democratic Conference Leader is trying to spread as the State Senate descends into its third week of chaos.
As this paper went to press, the Governor ordered everyone into an “extraordinary session” on Tuesday −− the day after the last day of their normal session −− to vote on a series of imperative bills, such as mayoral control of the schools.
Yet even Tuesday’s session came with a few pitfalls.
“The Governor calls the session, but he was not prepared,” recounted Flatbush State Senator Kevin Parker, who explained that the first official legislative session in almost a month was delayed, stymied and slowed to a crawl because Governor David Paterson and his team were not versed in the different procedures behind a unique session like this one. Apparently in an extraordinary session, the Assembly must be called too and all the bills put up to vote have to be resubmitted.
But despite Tuesday’s zaniness, Parker does not believe that Paterson will have to make good on his threat to call the Senate in on the Fourth of July.
“If we act together, it may not take us a day or two to get the required business done,” said Parker. “I don’t think he needs to call us in every day.”
Parker explained that during Tuesday’s session, which the Republicans claim wasn’t official, everything seemed like old times. State Senator Malcolm Smith of Queens acted as Majority Leader. State Senator Dean Skelos, who wrested control of the State Senate for the Republicans on June 8 after acquiring the support of defecting Democratic State Senators Pedro Espada of the Bronx and Hiram Monserrate of Queens, was seated in the Minority Leader chair.
Now that Monserrate has defected back to the Democrats, the Senate Democratic and Republican conferences are stuck at a 31−31 tie, meaning the Senate would be deadlocked on important issues like gay marriage.
Still, Sampson still sees a silver lining in these darkening clouds.
“We’re moving in a good direction,” Sampson said, explaining all of the “power sharing” talks he was immersed in with the Republican leadership last week. “We did order bipartisan governing so we can get past all of this machismo and get to the work of the people.”
Sampson said that the Democrats offered Republicans four proposals to equally share the duties and responsibilities of majority leadership, but all the Republicans wanted to talk about was “staffing and member items.”
“Yet I still have faith that we can [get back to the work],” said Sampson, who was also taken aback by the Republican coup.
“What happened was similar to what Bloomberg did with respect to term limits −− they [the Republicans] usurped the rights of the people,” he said. “The public did not want another Republican conference to lead the state of New York after 40 years of being in power and depriving Democratic communities of resources.”
Republicans, however, said that the coup was necessary because the new Democratic majority was leading the Senate with an iron fist.
Sampson called Republican allegations of unfair treatment by the Democratic majority “hypocrisy at the highest level.”
Speaking about his new position, Sampson put rumors to rest that he is basically the Majority Leader without the title since Smith is being blamed −− at least in part −− for the coup.
“While Senator Smith deals with the outside elements, you need someone to take care of the home base −− our members −− and make sure that their interests and needs are being addressed,” he explained. “That’s my job. I’m the CEO of the organization while he’s the chairman.”
He also dismissed rumors that the new position comes with a bump in pay.
“That’s not even on the radar,” he said. “It’s more responsibility with no perks.”
“[Being Democratic Conference Leader] is a blessing and a curse,” he said. “I’m honored that my colleagues trust me in this position to help weather this crisis.”
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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