The New York State Senate has 32 Democrats and 30 Republicans. That means the majority Democrats are in charge, right? That would be the logical conclusion, but this is the New York State Legislature we’re talking about; it doesn’t do logic. It does dysfunction. And this week, it was doing what it does best.

The New York State Senate has 32 Democrats and 30 Republicans. That means the majority Democrats are in charge, right? That would be the logical conclusion, but this is the New York State Legislature we’re talking about; it doesn’t do logic. It does dysfunction. And this week, it was doing what it does best.

On Monday, the minority Republicans staged a coup to take back the Senate. There are only a few places left in the world where such transitions of power occur: namely third-world countries and the New York Legislature.

Having been in control of the state Senate for the previous 42 years (and 69 of the past 70), Republicans decided the best way to serve as the minority party was to plot how to take back the reins. Not to benefit themselves, mind you. Oh, no! It was to reverse the terrible policies put in place by the new majority.

Having taken control of the state Senate, Republicans complained, Democrats:

• Took part in a closed-door, secretive budget process.

• Skewed pork-barrel money largely to members of their own party.

• Refused to allow bills offered by the minority party to come to the floor for debate.

• Saw that the Senate majority leader had the final say on just about every decision made in the body.

How Republicans worked themselves into a righteous lather over such abuses is mind-boggling, considering this is exactly how they operated when in power.

Republican senators are now singing the praises of bipartisanship — because only with the cooperation of the two break-away Democrats can they claim control of the Senate.

“When Senate Democrats campaigned last fall, they promised change and reform,” said veteran state Sen. Michael Nozzolio, R-Fayette, in a prepared statement. “Unfortunately the leadership they elected broke their promises, broke their commitments to over 19 million New Yorkers and to every member of the New York State Senate, and calcified Albany dysfunction instead of ending it.”

Calcified? Since 1939, the number of months each party has been in power is: Democrats, 17; Republicans, 828. Say what you want about New York’s Democrats, they’re quick calcifiers.
Plus, wouldn’t all this change and reform that Republicans are complaining Democrats failed to adopt have changed policies long practiced by the GOP leadership?

See what we mean about Albany and logic?

To elbow their way back into power, Senate Republicans have wooed two New York City-area Democrats  — one of whom, Pedro Espada, has a particularly rich résumé. According to the New York Times, Espada owes more than $60,000 in fines for questionable campaign fundraising, has failed to file dozens of reports with the state Board of Elections, doesn’t have an office in the Bronx district he represents and, in fact, may not even live there. The coup coalition made him president pro tempore of the Senate — meaning he would serve as acting governor should Gov. David Paterson leave the state.

Paterson, displaying the kind of firm hand and leadership a constitutional crisis like this requires, has vowed not to leave the state.

The Democrats’ once- and perhaps-future Majority Leader, Malcolm Smith, called the coup “illegal and unlawful,” and insisted his party is still in charge. He promised a legal challenge. And Democrats have — literally — refused to turn over the keys to the Senate, leaving Espada to say that, if they had to, the new majority would meet in a park. Bad idea; this might add to the perception that they are only playing at running the Senate, as opposed to actually doing so.

Actually, the Democrats may be onto something. With the legislative session ostensibly winding down, pending legislation in limbo and a tug of war for political power leaving the future of the Senate’s leadership in question, maybe the best course of action would be to lock all the lawmakers out.

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