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Espada: Senate Won't Take Up Mayoral Control

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New York State Senator Pedro Espada Jr. said Thursday the State Senate will not take up the issue of mayoral control of city schools.

After delaying their session more than six hours Wednesday, senators met past 3 a.m. to confirm judicial appointments, setting term limits for legislative leaders and dolling out resources.

None of the passed measures force a vote on mayoral control, even though it is predicted there are enough votes for the bill to pass.

"There are a number of so-called amendments that various senators have proposed," said Republican State Senator Frank Padavan of Queens. "But they can only be considered as amendments to a bill, which of course is the underlying measure, that passed the Assembly 129 to 18, which would pass the Senate in my view by a good margin, if they are allowed to bring it up."

"They are not God, so we have a right to do an amendment," said Democratic State Senator Shirley Huntley, also of Queens. "In this political structure, everybody's afraid of somebody. I'm afraid of no one. Who the hell cares? If you came to operate on behalf of your constituents, you don't care."

All sides, including representatives for Mayor Michael Bloomberg, negotiated Thursday on amendments that some Democrats want, but would require action on the part of the State Assembly.

The lower house, which approved the bill last month, would have to return to the State Capitol from their summer recess in order to pass it.

Some senators said that the majority of city senators favored the amended bill.

"The Better Schools Act is actually something that's more representative of the needs and desires of my district and the parents of New York City," said Democratic State Senator Kevin Parker of Brooklyn, the bill's sponsor.

Parker called Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein "tyrannical," echoing a familiar complaint that both helped scuttled a deal with inflexibility and arrogance.

"They have said all along that they are opposed to mayoral control of the school system in New York City and perhaps this is a message from them once again establishing that position that we ought to go back to the old days," said Republican State Senator Andrew Lanza of Staten Island.

Observers say that the mayor's success in keeping schools smoothly operating amid the uncertainly may have been to his disadvantage in holding on to control.

After a seven-year absence, the Board of Eduction was quickly reformed, with Deputy Mayor Derek Walcott at the helm and Bloomberg's policies firmly in place during summer school. The panel continues to be in control, possibly through September 9, the first day of the school year.

The Senate did pass a ban on the use of portable electronic device while driving.

Those who send text messages, play games or surf the Internet while driving could receive up to $150 in fines.

Cell phone use while driving is already outlawed in New York State.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported that the Senate divvied out $85 million in pork-barrel spending Thursday, with $77 million going towards the districts of Democratic lawmakers.

The two biggest individual shares were almost $5.5 million for Senate President Malcolm Smith of Queens and $5 million for Bronx Senator Jeff Klein.

The 30 Republican senators received only $8 million.

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