Bickering Senate Says a Breakthrough is Near

Lawmakers have said before they were close to a deal

Democrats and Republicans locked in a monthlong standoff in New York's Senate say they've agreed to work out a power-sharing deal from two different proposals.
If true, the conflict that started in a parliamentary coup June 8 could be over as early as Thursday. 
Gov. David Paterson and leaders of the Democratic conference and a Republican-dominated coalition said they will share top leadership positions, share resources and staff more equitably, and rotate top leaders of the Senate.

Exactly how that will be done, however, is the business of the next two days.

Republican leader Dean Skelos and Democrat Pedro Espada, the coalition's leaders, said Thursday is the deadline for a deal.  Democratic leaders John Sampson and Malcolm Smith, however, say there is no hard deadline for agreement. 

In a statement, the two said "We are encouraged by the progress that has been made thus far and will continue to bridget the gap on a reasonable solution."

The standoff that's brought Albany to a standstill will have reached the month-mark on Wednesday.  Little to no legislation has been passed and the legality of any bills that have passed the chamber remain in question.  Since Gov. Paterson began ordering the Senate to special sessions, the warring Republicans and Democrats have taken to gaveling in and out of session within minutes.

Amid the chaos, Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy made good on last week's promise to file a lawsuit over the circus in Albany. He claims the Senate is holding up authorization for a local sales tax increase that's critical to providing $300 million per year to his county and avoiding hiking already high property taxes.

This isn't the first time over the past weeks that the Senate leadership said they were closing-in on a deal.  On Tuesday, the self-described "amigos" who've threatened the Democrats' shaky Senate majority met for the second straight day -- apparently to try and hammer out a plan on how to proceed.

Sens. PedroEspada of the Bronx and Carl Kruger of Brooklyn joined Democratic Sens. Hiram Monserrate and Ruben Diaz for breakfast at Albany's Crowne Plaza Hotel, according to The Daily News.

Espada was elected Senate president by a Republican-dominated coalition that voted to topple the Democratic majority on June 8. Monserrate was the key 32nd vote in the coup, but soon after returned to the Democratic fold.

The topic for the recent mini-summits might be whether the Democrats could welcome Espada back into the conference, The Daily News reported.

After Democrats won the majority in the November elections, Diaz and Kruger flirted with flipping to the Republicans to create a GOP majority.

The delicate 31-31 deadlock has meant that lesser-known lawmakers could enjoy more power than ever before with a simple change of heart. Should one senator tip the scales in a new direction -- or at this point, any direction -- a key vote or powerful chairmanship could await.


Copyright AP - Associated Press
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