Republicans and Democrats trying to hold simultaneous legislative sessions in the New York Senate have gone into recess after leaders from the dueling parties began talking over each other.
The scene was chaotic in Albany today after Gov. David Paterson called a special session to force the warring Senate back to work more than two weeks after a leadership dispute broke out, effectively paralyzing the chamber.
Paterson called the Senate's behavior "farcical."
The Senate had left more than 55 pieces of legislation pending, among them bond financing, municipal taxes and mayoral control of New York City schools that he says must be resolved by the end of the month. Also on the table -- the issue of gay marriage, which passed the Assembly earlier this year.
The session was off to a rocky start just moments after both sides got in the chamber. In-house cameras show lawmakers sitting facing different directions, and Democrat Ruth Hassell-Thompson of the Bronx and Westchester yelled at the presiding officer "you're out of order," before exiting the chamber.
But somehow they were able to pass five bills.
Paterson said he intends to haul the Senate back in Wednesday and every day until all the legislation has been taken up. The regular session was due to end two days ago.
"We've got to get back to the people's business," he said again during a late afternoon press conference.
Earlier Tuesday, Democratic Senators locked themselves in the Senate chamber before their Republican foes showed up for the session.
The factions are split 31-31.
Sen. Eric Schneiderman said before the Dems went into the chamber at about 12:30 p.m. that power-sharing talks had "collapsed," The Daily News reported. Gov. Paterson also turned down another request by lawmakers to delay the session.
"At this point (Republicans) refuse to enter into an operating agreement to put aside the issue of who’s the temporary president of the Senate so that we can agree on rules to conduct the extraordinary session," he told the News. "We hope that they will come back to the table."
But Sens. Dean Skelos and Pedro Espada issued a statement that blamed the Democrats for the breakdown.
"Senate Democrats have made it clear that they do not want a resolution and do not want to join us in session to act on bills that have to get done," Skelos said, according to the News. "They have not moved off their desperate attempt to cling to the power they lost two weeks ago. They continue to boycott session, they refuse to provide staff for session, and they won’t turn on the microphones or cameras so the public can see what is going on in our chamber. Their actions have cost us two weeks of work."
Meanwhile, the Democrat who made the coup possible has filed his overdue campaign finance report for 2008.
Bronx Sen. Pedro Espada and his campaign committees owe the state Board of Elections roughly $13,500 for filing late. Espada owes about $3,200 of that and told the board the check was in the mail.
The treasurers of his campaign committees are responsible for the rest of the fines and reports, which still haven't been filed.
In his personal filing, Espada says there were no reportable contributions or expenses.