State Senate Deadlock Broken

Legislation may be able to move again in Albany as, according to the Times, Sen. Pedro Espada Jr. forsook the GOP and returned to the Democrats, thereby breaking the 31-31 tie that has persisted since his fellow defector in the June 8 coup, Sen. Hiram Monserrate, returned to the Democrats a few days after. Under the deal made by Espada with the Democrats, in which he was aided by others in the Party, including Brooklyn Sen. Carl Kruger, Espada will become Senate Majority Leader and chair of the Rules Committee. Sen. Malcolm Smith, of Queens, will retain the office of President Pro Tempore of the Senate at least until December; nothing is said about who may succeed him. This means that, should Governor Paterson’s attempt to appoint former MTA head Richard Ravitch Lieutenant Governor fail (Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has opined it is unconstitutional and will not support Paterson in defending it in court), Smith would take over the duties of Governor should Paterson die, become incapacitated, or resign. Sen. John Sampson, of Brooklyn, will be Democratic conference leader. Since Espada is from the Bronx, this means the three most powerful positions in the Senate will belong to the Outer Boroughs.

The practical effect of this is hard to gauge. In the short run, legislation needed to allow local governments to function will probably pass quickly. It isn’t clear that legislation to reinstitute mayoral control of New York City schools will have smooth sailing, as some legislators support an amended version that is intended to allow more parental influence. More contentious issues, like same sex marriage, may be put off until the next session. Sen. Daniel Squadron’s chairmanship of the Cities Committee and vice chairmanship of the Social Services Committee are probably safe.

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