Josh Goodman is a former staff writer for GOVERNING..E-mail: email@example.com
If you're struggling to make sense of the Republican takeover of the New York Senate, I can help.
The first thing to understand is that both Republicans and Democrats are desperately trying to win the support of a man who was indicted on felony charges just a couple of months ago. From the New York Times this morning:
Underscoring the antic nature of the leadership struggle, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle spent the day courting Hiram Monserrate, a Queens Democrat, who was indicted in March on charges of assaulting his companion with a broken glass.
For now, Monserrate and fellow dissident Democrat Pedro Espada are sticking with the Republicans.
The second thing to understand is that Gov. David Paterson is the voice of reason in the dispute. From the Times article linked above:
"This is getting a little ridiculous -- they've got to act like adults here," Gov. David A. Paterson lamented at a news conference Wednesday afternoon in his chambers on the second floor of the Capitol.
The third thing to understand is that all of this might actually be a good thing. That's what the second voice of reason, former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, has to say in a Slate column:
Albany's secretive, authoritarian political culture meant that individual legislators rarely if ever even attempted to exercise the traditional prerogatives that we expect of congressional legislators: voicing serious dissent, pushing an individual legislative agenda, conducting open hearings on contentious issues of public policy.
So good government groups and editorial boards rightly demanded that individual legislators be empowered to turn the Assembly and Senate into real deliberative chambers. In an odd way, that is exactly what is happening. With control of the Senate almost perfectly divided between the parties, any one legislator can tip the balance of power, and hence every legislator has something heretofore denied them--great negotiating capacity. After playing the role of sheep for years, legislators are now recognizing they have the power to be coyotes.
There, it makes perfect sense now, right?
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