Control of the New York State Senate was unclear at press time yesterday following a stunning coup attempt by Republicans seeking to seize the majority. The Senate Democratic leadership called the move “illegal.”
The move could change the landscape for both New York City, which wants Albany to approve tax increases to balance the city’s budget, and for industrial development agencies facing major reforms on how they operate.
Two Democratic senators, Hiram Monserrate of Queens and Pedro Espada Jr. from the Bronx, sided with Republicans who voted 32 to 30 to oust Sen. Malcolm Smith, D-Queens, as Senate majority leader. Sen. Dean Skelos, R-Rockville Centre, was voted back as majority leader and Espada was voted Senate president, Senate Republican spokesman Scott Reif said.
“This was an illegal and unlawful attempt to gain control of the Senate and reverse the will of the people who voted for a Democratic majority,” said Austin Shafran, spokesman for the Senate Democrats. “Nothing has changed, Senator Malcolm A. Smith remains the duly elected temporary president and majority leader.”
“We believe it’s perfectly within the law,” Reif said of the takeover. He characterized the apparent takeover by 30 Republicans and two Democrats as “bipartisan.”
Billionaire Thomas Golisano backed the change and was present at a press conference in Albany with Skelos and Espada.
The Democrats took control of the Senate in January after winning a majority in November for the first time since the 1960s.
Assemblyman Sam Hoyt, D-Buffalo, has pushed legislation that would require projects receiving industrial development agency benefits — including tax-exempt financing — to pay prevailing wages, a move Republicans have opposed. Asked whether the apparent change in the Senate would affect the future of his bill, Hoyt said in an e-mail, “My guess is yes.”
A spokesman for New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he couldn’t comment on how the change would affect the city’s budget because it wasn’t clear who was in charge.