New York's legislative session remained in state of suspended animation yesterday as Democrats sought a power-sharing agreement with Republicans in a what is now an evenly split state Senate. Over the weekend, Sen. Hiram Monserrate, D-Queens, one of two Democratic defectors who switched parties in a Republican coup last week, decided to switch back, leaving the Senate divided 31 to 31.
In more usual circumstances, the lieutenant governor could break a tie vote, but the state has been without one since Gov. David Paterson replaced disgraced former Gov. Eliot Spitzer.
If the Senate does not reconvene, 32 counties face the loss of 1% of sales taxes because routine extender bills authorizing the counties' additional 1% sales taxes cannot be passed, according to the New York Government Finance Officers Association.
Republican Senators, along with Democrat Pedro Espada Jr., D-Bronx, gaveled in a session yesterday but the remaining Democrats did not attend, leaving legislators without a quorum.
Some of the extender bills were on the Senate's agenda yesterday, but even if the Senate had had a quorum, it would not have been able to pass the bills because Senate secretary Angelo Aponte physically took them away, according to Senate Republican spokesman Mark Hansen.
Democrats, meanwhile, announced a new leadership structure that would make Sen. John Sampson, D-Brooklyn, "conference leader" but would retain Sen. Malcolm Smith, D-Queens, as majority leader even though Dean Skelos, R-Rockville Centre, now claims that title following last week's takeover. Democrats called for a meeting with Skelos yesterday to discuss power sharing, but at press time yesterday Hansen said a meeting hadn't been agreed upon.
Meanwhile, the New York City Council passed several "home rule messages," which are formal requests for legislative action in Albany. Among the requests were a 0.5% sales tax increase and the re-imposition of sales tax on clothing footwear costing more than $110, an increase in bonding capacity for the New York City Transitional Finance Authority and authorization for the city to sell bond anticipation notes. The city is counting on the sales taxes to raise $900 million to help balance its fiscal 2010 budget.