Updated 06/25/2009 08:30 PM
Paterson: State Senate In A 'Crisis Of Governance'
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Governor David Paterson says the State Senate remains in a crisis of governance following yet another day of legislative inaction in Albany.
During a press conference Thursday afternoon, Paterson renewed his call to withhold Senate members' per diems and travel expenses.
Paterson also says he has written a letter to the State Comptroller, calling for payments to be withheld to Senate members until the necessary bills are taken up, voted on and completed. He claims that there is no current presiding officer in the Senate to authorize such payments.
"This is governance versus chaos, not the governor versus the legislature," said Paterson.
Earlier in the day, both sides of the leadership battle hinted that a deal may be in the works to end the power struggle which has stalled the legislative progress in Albany for more than two weeks, forcing Paterson to call for special sessions.
In an exclusive interview with NY1's Josh Robin, Democratic State Senator Pedro Espada Jr., who Republicans claim is the Senate president, expressed a great deal of optimism that there will be a conclusion to this debacle.
"Our staff has been meeting," he said. "We have a template and folks, I think, for the first time have put down their armor and their shields and are really talking to each other in a respectful way. We are, obviously, trying to resolve the impasse not just for a day or two but throughout the coming months when we have to take on many more issues."
"I think we're all very optimistic," added Republican State Senate Dean Skelos at a news conference earlier today. "I think there's an historic opportunity now for both sides to come together. We understand elections are elections. But we also understand the tone of civility can be returned to the Senate."
At 3 p.m., both groups separately gaveled in and out of a special session that only lasted minutes, fulfilling the attendance requirement demanded by the governor, and then left the chamber to resume talks.
"We're all embarrassed," Espada said. "We're all embarrassed that we've embarrassed ourselves, the process, the institution through this impasse. We all agree that the lack of leadership by Governor [David] Paterson has hurt this process."
The Democratic conference is not commenting on the negotiations at this point. Leaders say talks are taking place behind closed doors.
On Wednesday, the governor had said that if his authority was challenged, he would take the senators to court.
"I think the people have had enough. I know I have," Paterson said. "And so what we are simply going to do here is to compel them to work, which is what they swore on their oath to the people of the state of New York."
Both sides have expressed anger with the governor for injecting himself in what lawmakers call "an internal Senate dispute."
The second day of a special session ended in four minutes – with many Republicans refusing to show up because they say the governor violated the state constitution by not calling the Assembly back in session.
Republicans responded to the deadline by criticizing the governor's leadership.
"The governor is throwing gasoline on a fire and I don't think that's the type of leadership he should be showing right now," said Republican State Senator Dean Skelos. "I think that he should understand that we understand our responsibility and that we are looking to move forward to get a resolution."
Meanwhile, a new rift between the governor and Democratic senators emerged Thursday after one member was quoted referring to Paterson's past drug use and infidelity, while another expressed interest in backing State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo in 2010.
Former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani says although he's a Republican, he'd rather have Democrats in control of the Senate, if it means the business of the state will more forward.
Giuliani is calling for a state constitutional convention to smooth out procedural issues like replacing the lieutenant governor.
In an interview on Wednesday night's "Road to City Hall," Giuliani said his proposal does not mean he's running for governor.
"This is a proposal I would have made whether the question of running for governor was out there, it wasn't out there," he said. "It's something that should be done. It is true that the impasse that has taken place and the embarrassment for the state is the proximate motivation for it, but this is something that should have been done 10 years ago."
Giuliani says Governor David Paterson has done everything he can to fix the current impasse.
Paterson says he appreciates the suggestion, but worries a constitutional convention could be dominated by special interests. He says reform in Albany needs to come first.