Civil War in Albany

This blog usually avoids political issues if only because the topic can be all consuming. The world is much too fascinating to stay in a rut. But the mess in the New York State capital cries out for a quick look. Even though it promises to have more twists and turns than one of the daytime soaps, and to take as long reaching a resolution, I promise not to revisit it any time soon.

What precipitated the events that led to the defection of two Senate Democrats to the ranks of the GOP? Well, that’s not entirely clear. The NY Times said that billionaire would-be politician Tom Golisano felt snubbed by the Dems because they didn’t do what he wanted and the Senate majority leader wouldn’t return his phone call. As a would-be politician, isn’t his skin supposed to be thicker than that?

Anyway Golisano apparently talked two Dems into changing parties, though as of Thursday afternoon, one of them may have been changing his mind. Pedro Espada Jr. represents a district in the Bronx, while Hiram Monserrat comes from Queens. Golisano’s hissy fit was followed by a much bigger one by the Dems, who mostly walked out, locked the doors to the Senate chamber, and refused to turn over the key to the GOP, who hold the majority with the two defections. The accidental governor (a Democrat whose popularity is barely in double digits) claimed to be powerless to unlock the door or to settle the dispute. Someone finally came up with another key and business resumed, sort of, until one of the two defectors walked out.

Meanwhile the Dems are in court trying to block the session and appear to have won a delay at least until Friday.

I’m probably missing something here. The word Byzantine comes to mind, both in the sense of deviousness and intricacy.

The Republicans want to claim leadership of the Senate for the first time since forever. That sentiment is understandable, but do they really want these two guys to be the face of their party?

Espada has paid a substantial fine for violating campaign contribution laws, and a nonprofit organization that he headed is under investigation by the New York’s attorney general for alleged funny business with some money. Plus there’s a question of whether he actually lives in his district. This is the guy the GOP was planning to swear in as president pro tem of the Senate. Since there’s no lieutenant governor at the moment, he’s next in line to step in as governor. Yipe!

Monserrat is a little less toxic: He’s merely been indicted for cutting his girlfriend with a piece of broken glass.

The state legislature still has a hefty agenda if it ever gets back to work: a proposed sales tax increase; control of the New York City public schools; same-sex marriage. But I guess it’s more important for the state senate to waste taxpayers’ money fighting like a bunch of seventh-graders.


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