After a month of fighting for control in the state Senate, lawmakers are expected to return today to take up mayoral control of New York City schools and some other legislative reforms.
The law that gave the mayor authority over the city's schools lapsed during the power struggle that followed a political coup last month. Some Democrats argue the measure should be amended to give parents more power in the education process. Supporters said the measure improves performance.
It's unclear what reforms will make it to the floor. A spokeswoman for Democratic Conference Leader Sen. John Sampson of Brooklyn says this week's work will just be the beginning, with more changes in the next two months.
Senate officials said the final agenda won't be set until Wednesday morning.
The senators will be back in the chamber nearly a week after the leadership squabble was broken when Bronx Sen. Pedro Espada returned to the Democratic fold on Thursday, giving the party a 32-30 majority for the first time since the June 8 coup. As part of the deal, Espada took the title of Senate majority leader.
Espada's move came after Democratic Gov. David Paterson's decision to appoint a lieutenant governor to preside over the Senate, giving his party the upper hand in a chamber that had been divided 31-31. The move to appoint Richard Ravitch to the post is now making its way through the courts, as Republicans claim Paterson lacks the authority to appoint a successor.
The Senate standoff took its toll on the state. Paterson estimated that New York's municipalities lost as much as $150 million during the conflict — most of it missed sales tax revenue — including $60 million in New York City.
Yonkers said it was in danger of going bankrupt.
Republicans accepted their return to the minority in the Senate chamber, where they were for the past six months for the first time since 1965, but still tried to claim some victory. They say the reforms will serve them well and increase the power of individual Senators.
"Upstate is going to be a player," said Republican Sen. George Maziarz of Niagara County. "We have a conference of 30 strong and with these reforms. ... We won't be rolled over."
The regular session ended June 22. Gov. Paterson had been calling the Senate into special session for days before the impasses finally ended. However, the two sides took little action during that time.