The new year brings a new system of government in the state Senate. YNN’s Nick Reisman has more on how this coalition government is going to work.
ALBANY, N.Y. -- A new year and a new Senate. But this state Senate is a different one. Lawmakers this week approved a joint operating agreement that allows Republicans and five breakaway Democrats to govern as equals. Despite objections and skepticism from mainline Democrats, the leaders of both factions say the coalition will work.
“For the first time in the history of this body the Senate will not be run exclusively by Republicans or Democrats,” said Dean Skelos, (R) Senate Republican Leader.
“It means recognizing that negotiating is not a dirty word, but rather a necessary element of meaningful dialogue,” said Jeff Klein, (D) Senate IDC Leader.
The coalition approved rules changes that in essence require coalition leaders Jeff Klein, a Democrat, and Republican Dean Skelos to agree on which bills come to the floor for a vote and formally recognizes the two-year-old IDC as an official third conference in the chamber.
“I believe that most of you would agree that these changes are a significant sign of the times. From this day forward it is no longer acceptable to dig in your heels in personal political combat at the expense of the hard working taxpayers of this state,” said Klein.
Coalition leaders say the move is in contrast to the gridlock in Washington.
“Unlike Washington, our state government is functioning. In 2013, we will build on our record by passing tough new laws to increase public safety, controlling spending and cut taxes and encouraging businesses to create more jobs,” said Skelos.
Mainline Senate Democrats aren't so sure, saying the rules approved don't full spell out the changes.
“The actual power sharing details are not there, perhaps we'll learn about that in a future document or perhaps not,” said Liz Krueger, (D) Senate – Manhattan.
The coalition presents a different set of options for Governor Andrew Cuomo, who poked fun at the arrangement in his State of the State address.
“You have to paddle the same way guys. Paddle the same way,” said Cuomo.
But for good-government advocates, the rules aren't so funny. Some are concerned that resource allocations for office budgets and staff continue to make things unfair for minority Democrats.
“If you're living in a district that's represented by a Democrat or if you have a Republican Assembly member, in both cases you're going to have less of a voice in Albany, your members are not going to have the same power to influence legislation, they're going to have less of say in the chamber and it operates,” said Bill Mahoney, NYPIRG.
The first real test of the coalition will likely be if both Skelos and Klein allow votes on measures Cuomo wants, including a minimum wage hike and tighter gun control laws.