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Special Session Hits Snag In State Senate

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A special legislative session called by Governor David Paterson hit yet another political setback Tuesday as both Republicans and Democrats held their own separate proceedings inside the chamber.

Earlier in the day, the Democratic presiding officer could be seen standing at the main podium, as Republicans created their own podium in the middle of the floor and passed a number of bills, a move Democrats say does not constitute a real session.

"That was not a legitimate session. There were no jackets to the bills. There was no journal clerk here. There was no stenographer. They were going through a mock session, kind of what we did earlier today, getting prepared for this," said State Senator Malcolm Smith.


"They come in here and just do political theater. Why didn't you guys stop it? Because we were just here, preparing for this extraordinary session, waiting for the extraordinary bills that have not yet shown up," said State Senator Bill Stachowski.

Adding to the delay in proceedings in the State Senate are the actual bills. Since the Senate has been called in for a special session, the bills have to be renumbered and reprinted -- a mistake Senate Democrats say is the result of an oversight by the governor's office.

More than a dozen Democratic State Senators unexpectedly took over the chamber hours before the special session was due to start Tuesday, beating out the Republicans who had announced their plans to arrive early.

Negotiations earlier in the morning reportedly failed and left both sides pointing fingers at each other.


Senator Pedro Espada Jr., who helped Republicans stage their political coup on June 8th, released a statement saying, "Senate Democrat leaders are refusing to negotiate reforms that would allow our session to proceed today and beyond. We are trying to negotiate a bipartisan governing agreement so we can go forward and get the members of the Senate Democrat conference in the Chamber, and get the people's business done."

Meanwhile, Governor Paterson says he'll keep calling the Senators back every day, including weekends and holidays, until they deal with legislation such as mayoral control of schools and the city's request to raise its sales tax.

The regular session ended Monday with no resolution to the power struggle that began when Democrats Pedro Espada Junior and Hiram Monserrate voted with the GOP to oust the Democratic leadership. Monserrate has since gone back to the Democrats, creating a deadlock.

The governor refused a request by State Senators to delay Tuesday's special session so they could keep working on a power-sharing deal.

"The people's business has been delayed long enough," said the governor. "We have to get back to completing this session's agenda, and it's important for us to continue and finish that job."

Even though senators are required to attend the special session, the governor cannot force them to vote.

State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo also weighed in on the turmoil Tuesday, saying the people of New York are counting on the senators to vote on key issues that can't be put off.

"My advice to them is very simple: put your political business aside and do the people's business, period," said Cuomo. "That's what this is all about, people have very real problems as we see today, and the people's business comes first and I hope they put everything else aside and focus on the people's business."

Cuomo says the State Senate should work as though there's a 50/50 split among Democrats and Republicans. He adds that other governments find ways to work effectively when they're evenly divided.

The dispute in Albany could heat up even more on Wednesday when, under Governor Paterson's orders, lawmakers will have to consider the highly debated issue of same-sex marriage.

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