Gov. David Paterson scored a victory Monday when the state Legislature failed to override his veto of an ethics bill he complained was too weak.
The Democrat-led Legislature hoped to pass the changes in 2010 — an election year — now that the Senate has a Democratic majority.
The override attempt gained enough votes in the Assembly, but it failed 35-26 in the Senate, as a veto override requires a two-thirds majority.
Senate Democrats blamed Republicans for the failed vote, while Republican senators say they rejected the measure because it was weak and they wanted an opportunity to publicly negotiate a better bill.
"Senate Republicans have killed ethics reform in Albany," Senate Conference Leader John Sampson said in a statement.
Senate Minority Leader Dean Skelos argued that Democrats could have used the governor's veto to create a stronger measure. But, he said, "Legislative Democrats tried to ram through an override so a weaker bill they settled for in secret would be enacted into law."
Only four Republicans voted in favor of the override: Sens. Hugh Farley of Schenectady, Frank Padavan of Queens, Roy McDonald of Saratoga and Rensselaer counties and Joseph Robach of Monroe County.
"It's unbelievable, given the amount of scandal in Albany, that ethics reform was killed today," said Blair Horner, legislative director for the New York Public Interest Research Group. "It's hard to know what's going to happen next. It's entirely possible that the pathetic status quo will stay in place until next year."
Paterson has proposed a compromise ethics bill that would create a commission to weigh possible conflicts of interest involving elected officials and their law clients. It would also require disclosure of details about the lawmakers' income from those clients, apparently without making the clients' identities public. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson, both lawyers, have strongly opposed revealing their law clients and outside income.
"It's time to put aside the childish arguments and get down to negotiating a strong ethics reform bill," said Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause New York.
Paterson said Democratic legislative leaders have resisted his efforts to negotiate a compromise, although lawmakers had said it was Paterson who refused to work out a deal.
"He did not reach out to us in advance" of releasing the new proposal, said Dan Weiller, a spokesman for Silver.
On the same day the ethics veto override failed, Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada proposed legislation to require the automatic expulsion of senators who commit violent misdemeanors. The state Senate is expected to decide Tuesday whether to expel Sen. Hiram Monserrate, a Queens Democrat who was convicted of dragging his girlfriend through his apartment building lobby.
Espada's proposal wouldn't affect Monserrate, who was acquitted of a felony, which would have automatically cost him his job. Monserrate is appealing the conviction as Democratic leaders decide how to deal with his case.
Even if the law had been passed before Monserrate's conviction, he wouldn't face expulsion under the measure Espada proposed Monday. The law wouldn't punish first-time lawmakers for crimes committed between Election Day and swearing in — the window of time when Monserrate was arrested.
Monserrate and Espada, a Bronx Democrat, teamed up to help Republicans mount a coup that paralyzed the Senate for more than a month last summer.
Espada said Monday he would vote against expelling Monserrate from the Senate. He refused to say whether he would vote to censure his colleague until he sees the censure resolution.
The misdemeanors that would merit expulsion under Espada's bill include third-degree assault, second-degree sexual abuse and fifth-degree arson, among other violent crimes.
Monserrate was convicted of third-degree assault. His fate in the Senate will likely be decided Tuesday.
"A vote will come tomorrow," said Senate President Malcolm Smith. "I believe if an expulsion resolution comes to the floor that there would be more than sufficient votes, that he would be expelled."