Albany Circus: Senate GOP Sues Chamber Secretary

Espada threatens to sit out until power struggle is resolved

Senate Republicans are suing the Chamber's secretary, claiming he has thwarted their new majority coalition by locking doors, turning off lights and microphones, failing to provide necessary documents and threatening staff.

The move by Sens. George Winner and John Flanagan is the latest twist in a 16-day clown act that has crippled the legislative session in Albany, prompting at least a second extra session today as ordered by Gov. David Paterson.

The suit filed this morning against Angelo Aponte was scheduled to be heard later today. Republican lawyer John Ciampoli says his party wants state Supreme Court Justice and part-time Senate baby-sitter Thomas McNamara to order Aponte to do his job. McNamara is the judge who last week dismissed the Democrats' lawsuit disputing the June 8 coup vote.

Aponte was chosen by Democrats, who ran the chamber for almost six months with a 32-30 majority until Republicans claimed power with the help of dissident Democrats on June 8. One Democrat -- Pedro Espada -- continues to vote with the GOP, deadlocking the Senate at 31-31.

Meanwhile, dissident Democrat Pedro Espada grabbed headlines once more by saying he may not re-enter the chamber until the leadership struggle is resolved. This coming from the guy who teamed with Hiram Monserrate to facilitate the power struggle in the first place.

Espada even said he might not report to the chamber even if Paterson called on state troopers to force the dissident's presence. If he sits out, the Dems would enjoy a 31-30 edge in the Senate.
Further complicating matters, Paterson said the legality of legislation passed in deuling sessions of the Senate on Tuesday will be subject to litigation because it's unclear if the votes were legally taken. Each side sent out press releases regarding various votes from Tuesday, adding to the deepening confusion. A Paterson spokesman described the whole thing as "yet another distraction from getting back to work," adding that the Senate needs to "agree on a way to do the people's business."

Also Wednesday, former mayor Rudy Giuliani opined in a New York Times op-ed today that "this was always a broken state government ... Now it's collapsed." Giuliani, a potential Republican gubernatorial candidate next year, called the circus in Albany a "bizarre" partisan standoff that is paralyzing the state Senate.

Earlier today, Democrats once again locked the GOP out of the Senate chamber as a planned vote on gay marriage was expected to add fuel to the fire in Albany.

Sen. Brian Foley, D-Long Island, and other Democratic lawmakers locked themselves inside the chambers at the break of dawn today, taking strategic turns baby-sitting the once august chamber. The Democrats pulled the same trick yesterday, engaging in a similar occupation several hours before Paterson's first special session began.

Sens. Malcolm Smith and Liz Krueger also reported to the chamber this morning, according to the paper.

Today's wild card might be Sen. Ruben Diaz, the Bronx Democrat who has a long record of opposition to same-sex marriage. The socially conservative Democrat hinted yesterday that he might jump ship and join the Republicans, breaking the 31-31 deadlock and once again swinging control of the Senate to the GOP.

Having passed the Assembly earlier this year, gay marriage is sure to make an already emotional conflict even worse. 

"Does the governor really want a marriage vote?" asked the Daily News' Liz Benjamin "Or is he just trying to have it both ways - preserve the fragile 31-member Senate Democratic conference while also maintaining his relationship with deep-pocketed gay donors?"

Yesterday's lock-in began right after power-sharing talks with Republicans broke down. It was the first time the Dems even entered the chamber since the power struggle began more than two weeks ago.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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