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Closed-Door Meetings Yield No Results In State Senate Stalemate

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Closed-door meetings held by state senators Thursday afternoon, in lieu of a planned legislative session, yielded no agreement to end the stalemate that has brought Albany to a halt.

In fact, observers say the situation has gotten even more acrimonious.

For the fourth straight day, Republicans attempted to hold a session, but, without the Democrats, they did not have enough for a quorum.

Little other than arguments has been accomplished since the Republicans, along with Democratic Senators Pedro Espada Junior and Hiram Monserrate, staged a coup last Monday to oust Democratic Senator Malcolm Smith as majority leader.

Espada's split from the Democrats and Monserrate's return to the party created a 31-31 split in the Senate.

Earlier in the day, Democratic State Senator Jeffrey Klein of the Bronx called on the GOP to replace Espada as the Senate president with someone who is willing to "meet in good faith and find a workable solution."

Democrats say they are going back to court to file an appeal after they say they have failed at convincing Republican leaders to share power. The Democrats are appealing a ruling by a State Supreme Court judge earlier this week to dismiss a claim that the Republican takeover last week was illegal.

Espada suggested Wednesday that the state Constitution allows him to cast two votes, which would give the Republicans a quorum. The GOP claims Espada was elected Senate president, which they say makes him acting lieutenant governor and would allow him to cast two votes.

"They have to come to work," said Espada. "You have to come to work. You're getting paid. It's the one matter that I don't think is defensible at all."

Meanwhile, NY1 has obtained a document through the New York City Board of Elections, which reveals that last week wasn't the first time Senator Hiram Monserrate sided with the Republican party.

NY1 has learned Monserrate was registered as a Republican from 1988 to the beginning of 1997. He was then registered with the Independence Fusion Party for nine months before registering with the Democratic party in October of 1997.

A spokesperson for Monserrate says he joined the Republican party in his 20s before he had time to develop his political identity.

Monserrate was on NY1's "Road to City Hall" last week and said he had always been a Democrat.

Monserrate now calls himself a progressive Democrat.

While the State Senate remains gridlocked, the State Assembly has overwhelmingly approved a measure that largely preserves the mayor's control over the public school system.

Under the bill passed Wednesday, the mayor would still appoint eight of the 13 members of the Panel for Educational Policy, but two of those would also have to be public school parents. The five borough presidents would each choose one additional member.

The bill also keeps the schools chancellor as a nonvoting board member.

"When I was sent here to work on the issue of mayoral control, the people in my district cared about three things: parental input, greater transparency,and greater accountability," explained Queens Assemblyman Rory Lancman. "And after a long and winding process, this bill accomplishes that."

"The only thing they're using to evaluate teachers and principals these days are standardized test scores. And because of that, the entire school year has become an obsession in trying to get those scores up," said Queens Assemblyman Mark Weprin. "And I believe that students are doing less learning and more testing."

The Assembly bill would extend mayoral control for six years.

The current law is set to expire at the end of the month.

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