Espada Is “Sorry” About Albany Mess

The second defection brings a quick end to the 31-31 stalemate

Sen. Pedro Espada, the dissident Democrat at the center of the Senate crisis in Albany, has turned his back on his Republican coalition, returning to his party and effectively ending the 31 day deadlock in the the chamber.
As part of the deal, Espada takes the title of Senate majority leader, Democratic leaders announced Thursday during a news conference.

The Senate is expected to begin voting on legislation Thursday night, the Senate President's office said.

This will tip the balance from the deadlocked 31-31 to 32-30, giving Democrats the edge and a quorum.  It should also serve to end the deadlock that has paralyzed the State Senate since June 8.

Espada today said he was sorry for the month-long squabble.  "I profoundly apologize.  That's not the result.  It was a point on the bumpy road."

Meantime, Gov. David Paterson said the stalemate has cost the state $175 million over four weeks.

A Senate staffer familiar with the negotiations said that current Majority Leader Malcolm Smith has agreed to resign his position as Senate President Pro Tem at the end of this year, to make room for Sen. John Sampson to take over that role.  Sampson has been serving as "conference leader" since the June 8th coup.

News of the Espada double cross came earlier in the day. "I'm going to tell (Republican leader) Sen.Dean Skelos that I have a handshake agreement with (Democratic leader) Sen. John Sampson to become the majority leader,'' Espada said, the New York Post reported.

Espada and Monserrate's (D-Queens) defection on June 8 triggered the current leadership fight in Albany and has led to a month-long standoff in which legislation has expired, city and county budgets have been left in limbo and the state's governor has taken to ordering the chamber into special sessions. 

On Wednesday, Paterson appointed a lieutenant governor, former MTA chief Richard Ravitch, to try and break the stalemate.  That move has already become locked in legal challenge.

The coup was reportedly engineered by billionaire political activist Tom Golisano, who was chagrined that Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith was rather attached to his Blackberry.  Smith apparently could tear his attention away from the device long enough to hear the billionaire's concerns about plans to hike taxes on the rich.  After the meeting, he also decided the Senate needed new leadership.

Republicans accepted their return to the minority, where they were for just the past six months after holding the majority since 1965, but still tried to claim some victory. They say the reforms adopted during the June 8 coup -- which gives the minority equal resources and power to move bills -- are an improvement over their status before the uprising.

That will give them a far better chance of getting their bills passed and more funding for their districts, all of which should help them in elections in a state increasingly dominated by Democratic voters.

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