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From Bad to Worse in the Senate Chamber
June 30th, 2009

Democrats just got a rude awakening. Sure, Gov. David Paterson said that he won’t sign any bills they pass during the odd session started today by Republican Sen. Frank Padavan’s brief foray into the chamber, but that wasn’t their biggest problem.

Democrats were churning through legislation, passing measures 32-0 when Sen. Ruben Diaz stood up to loudly demand a bill be laid aside. The bill pending before the chamber would have allowed New York City to raise its sales tax to balance its budget. Liz Krueger said she had tried to mark the bill as “controversial” and in need of debate. But a vote was called and the bill was voted down.

Legislators including Malcolm Smith, John Sampson, Kevin Parker and Carl Kruger voted against the bill.

Diaz said ” the people of my district are paying too much taxes.” Other senators echoed his sentiment. Read the rest of this entry »

By on June 30, 2009, 2:31 pm
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Every Senator Counts
June 30th, 2009

The fate of a number of key pieces of legislation — including the hike in the city sales tax — apparently now hinges on whether or not GOP Sen. Frank Padavan of Queens was or was not on the Senate floor today.

Padavan’s alleged — and clearly brief — presence on the floor, along with that of all 31 Democrats, gave the body a quorum. (Senators do not have to remain in the chamber for the entire meeting to be counted as being there.) That has enabled the Democrats to begin passing legislation.

It’s not over yet, though, Gov. David Paterson told a 12:30 p.m. briefing that the Republican conference maintains that Padavan never signed in and so cannot be counted as legally present. Referring to his eight years as a Senate floor leader, Paterson said,” Senators don’t sign in. They just walk in, and they’re recognized.” He did express reluctance, however, to sign legislation that may have been passed without a quorum.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on June 30, 2009, 12:14 pm
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Signs of Progress?
June 30th, 2009

There are indications that at least some members of the State Senate may be taking the today’s deadline for action seriously, David King reports from Albany. Under court order, Democrats and Republican gathered in the chambers this morning and quickly adjourned. But as the gavel (one for each party) fell, Republican Thomas Libous approached John Sampson, who has emerged as the Democratic leader. The two then went into the Democratic chamber to speak further.

Could a deal be in the works? There is, King says, a lot of chatter that it might finally be happening.

By on June 30, 2009, 10:28 am
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Judge Rules, Inaction Continues
June 29th, 2009

Supreme Court Judge Joseph Teresi has ruled that Democratic and Republican senators must report together for session tomorrow at 10 a.m. Teresi rejected the daily separate sessions both sides have been holding. “To come into session as separate groups is a fiction,” said Teresi.

So everyone is going to get right back to work then and that is that–not quite.

Republicans plan to file an appeal of the ruling at 9 a.m. tomorrow, thereby freezing Teresi’s order. Democrats have yet to announce whether they will seek an appeal–they may be setting up to vilify the Republicans for their appeal instead.

So it seems senators may not report to do their jobs yet again. Who would have guessed?

Meanwhile, power-sharing negotiations have gotten nowhere. Both sides tried their best to throw each other in front of the bus that is the looming June 30 deadline for renewing  important pieces of legislation. Legislation scheduled to sunset tomorrow includes mayoral control of schools and measures to provide funding to municipalities across the state.

Democrats proposed holding a session at noon tomorrow if Republicans agree to their rules for a temporary power-sharing arrangement. Democrats put forward a slate of non-controversial legislation they feel must be acted on. Read the rest of this entry »

By on June 29, 2009, 5:13 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany | 1 Comment »

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Patrolling Pedicabs
June 29th, 2009

The three-wheeled, human-powered pedicab lobby rolled into City Hall this morning for a surprisingly calm hearing on new regulations that would license the industry for the first time.

It was calm in comparison to the so-called chaos the industry causes in Times Square.

The new regulations — which could be approved by the City Council as early as July, according to Consumer Affairs Committee Chairman Leroy Comrie — would do away with a previous cap on licenses and replace it with a 60-day window to apply to operate a pedicab. The City Council had attempted to regulate the human-powered cabs in 2007, limiting their number to 325, but it was then sued by the New York City Pedicab Owners’ Association. The court struck down the city regulations, which the administration opposed as well, and derailed the implementation of the cap.

The new regulations, which the administration and the City Council agreed upon earlier this month, would require pedicabs to register with the Department of Consumer Affairs. They would be subject to safety checks, drivers would be required to have a license and every cab would have to have seat belts, headlights and taillights. Their brakes would also be subject to inspection. Every pedicab business could only license 30 pedicabs.

After the 60-day licensing period, there would be an 18-month freeze on pedicab licensing. Licenses could be transferred between owners.

A major concern for the industry and city officials is safety. Currently, critics say, completely unregulated pedicabs crowd Times Square and speed along roadways, endangering passengers. Earlier this month, before the announcement of the new regulations, a driver and passenger were seriously injured when a pedicab collided with a yellow cab on the Williamsburg Bridge.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on June 29, 2009, 4:03 pm
In category: Environment,Gotham City,Law,nextNY,Transportation | 26 Comments »

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The Weekenders
June 27th, 2009

Most senators showed up for separate special sessions today.  They were only there for a few minutes before they went back to their offices. There were appointments to approve but they didn’t bother with that.

The optimism that existed on Thursday has been muted. It could be that senators are just bummed to be working weekends but it is more likely because potential deals have come together and crumbled, over and over again. Sen. Pedro Espada and others insisted that they are doing their best to reach a deal this weekend.

The rest of the world is preparing for the Senate to remain deadlocked for the near future. Gov. David Paterson is meeting with Mayor Michael Bloomberg tomorrow to discuss the expiration of mayoral control. School governance legislation and a number of measures that help localities balance their budgets are set to expire on Tuesday.

Sen. Malcolm Smith appears to be less involved in negotiations than he was earlier this week. That could be because some Democrat’s were very unhappy about a possible deal that would have left him in charge.

Legislators are due back in the chamber tomorrow evening. With some luck they might stay in their seats for more than a few minutes.  Read the rest of this entry »

By on June 27, 2009, 10:16 pm
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Paterson Halts Senate Pork
June 26th, 2009

“The member item process is over,” said Gov. David Paterson moments ago at a press conference.  Senators were set to allocate member items (also known as pork) on June 8 but a pesky coup happened before they could get to it. Now it seems they won’t get the chance at least until the leadership debacle is decided.

Republicans were upset that Democrats had given them a fraction of the member items they used to received when they controlled the Senate.  Sen. Pedro Espada was reportedly angry that Democrats would not give  more than $2 million in member items to groups hastily set up by his known associates.

Now Paterson says he will not process any member items. “We have informed leaders of both sides that we are no longer paying any member items to senators.” Paterson was asked if the process would resume if and when a power-sharing deal was reached. He did not respond. Without any member items lined out for this year there aren’t any for Paterson to stop.

Paterson also called shenanigans on assertions by senators that they are close to a power-sharing agreement. “They are now telling you that they are meeting and are very close to an agreement,” he said ” No, they are very close to the weekend. They have put the weekend over the interests of New Yorkers.”

Also part of the governor’s get-tough policy is a trip to court to try to get legislators to “compel the Senate to meet in session.” Paterson said that senators didn’t meet the requirements of extraordinary session by failing to reach a quorum and gavel into session.

Paterson reiterated that he will call senators back to work over the weekend and until the leadership crisis is resolved.

By on June 26, 2009, 12:52 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany | 1 Comment »

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What's the Deal?
June 26th, 2009

Word is a deal is taking shape that that would allow the Senate to get back to work. The much talked about arraignment would have Sen. Malcolm Smith serve as president pro tempore, Sen. Dean Skelos as majority leader, Sen. Pedro Espada as vice president pro tempore and Sen. John Sampson as leader of the Democratic conference. The only problem is, well, there are lots of problems.

First off Republicans and Espada came out of negotiations this morning to deny they would accept a deal that recognized them as holding anything other than the posts they say they were elected to during the June 8 coup.

On the Democrats’ side there are hang-ups about giving Espada a significant post and how long the deal will last. Republicans want a deal to last for two years, while Democrats want a shorter term.

There is a lot at stake here, including eventual redistricting. Republicans want to keep themselves relevant as Democrats win more seats. And Democrats want to make sure they have the ability to flex their muscles if their ranks grow in next year’s election.

Perhaps more significantly, there is a lot of strife in the Democratic conference. Members are unhappy that Smith has managed to remain in control of the conference, after they say his “abysmal” leadership got them into this mess in the first place. The Democrats’ dissatisfaction with their leadership has been growing over the last few days. If the consternation continues some Democrats say it could lead to further splinters in the already fractured party. Read the rest of this entry »

By on June 26, 2009, 12:08 pm
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Weekly Web Wrap
June 26th, 2009

  • If I Knew BLANK About New York, I’d BLANK
    (Open My City)
  • Project Aims to Green Space Below Queensboro Bridge
    (Urban Omnibus)
  • What New York Can Learn About Dutch Flood Prevention
    (NY 400 Blog)
  • Subway Station Naming Rights Absurdly Underpriced
    (BLDGBLOG)
  • The Downside of Small Schools
    (Huffington Post)
  • State Approves $3 Million in Biotech Startup Tax Credits
    (GenomeWeb via FierceBiotech)
  • New Yorkers Who Prefer “Daddy” to Mayor
    (Alternet)
  • Five Open Tenants of NYSenate.gov
    (Talkin’ Bout a Revolution)
  • State Change to Graduation Stats Could Implode Gains
    (Edwize)
  • New Budget No Longer Plans to Eliminate School Trailers
    (IBO Weblog)
  • Comptroller Supports Expansion of Cheap In-City Commuter Rail Travel
    (Tri-State Transportation Campaign)
  • Cartoonist’s Take on Senate Power Struggle
    (Matt Davies)
  • By on June 26, 2009, 10:21 am
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    The Hardscrabble Existence of State Senators
    June 26th, 2009

    Gov. David Paterson’s strategy to make senator’s more uncomfortable may not be producing legislation but it has has driven them closer together.

    The warring factions of the Senate held separate extraordinary sessions today.  Republicans and Democrats spent about seven minutes combined in the Senate chamber but there was clear coordination between them to hold the sessions. Democrats quickly ushered their staff off the floor to allow Republicans to take over the chamber. They wanted to avoid embarrassing clashes between legislators–the kinds of incidents that characterized session on Tuesday.

    More obvious was the coordination by both sides to attack  Paterson. “Throwing gasoline on the fire,” was the phrase used by Republicans and Democrats to describe Paterson’s repeated call for extraordinary session.

    Sens. Carl Kruger, Hiram Monserrate and Eric Adams slammed Paterson’s sessions as a “farce.” They say that without having the Assembly in extraordinary session, to pass the same-as bills,” any legislation the Senate passes isn’t legal. The trio dared Paterson to sign the bills that Democrats managed to pass on Tuesday. Kruger said he felt like he was being “held hostage” and insisted Paterson doesn’t understand the negotiation process.

    In seconds legislators went from angrily bashing Paterson to smiling while telling reporters that they are nearing an agreement. They insisted they simply needed a three-day weekend to finalize things. Read the rest of this entry »

    By on June 26, 2009, 12:18 am
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    Cooling Off Period
    June 25th, 2009

    It’s not over until it’s over, but both sides in the State Senate feud have pledged to reach an agreement and come back to work on Monday, David King reports from Albany. There is a caveat, though: For that to happen, various senators say, the governor has to abandon the idea of special Senate sessions for the next three days. Promising to be good, the senators say they will then spend that time negotiating.

    And so today’s bipartisan message was clear: The governor is not the solution but the problem. In fact, Brooklyn Sen. Kevin Parker told King, “The governor did what the rest of us couldn’t, which was to unite the Senate.”

    Parker might really need the time to cool off. He had some choice words for Paterson. He told reporters that Paterson is a “coke snorting, staff-banging governor.”

    Meanwhile three Democrats with wavering party allegiances — Pedro Espada Jr., Hiram Monserrate, and Ruben Diaz Sr. — were spied conferring in the corridors, whispering to one another. Diaz appeared upset, while Monserrate rubbed his shoulders and tried to calm him.

    Any idea what that was about?

    By on June 25, 2009, 2:50 pm
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    Goading the Governor?
    June 25th, 2009

    As negotiations continue over if, when and how the State Senate can get back to business, the senators seems to be reaching consensus on one point, David King reports from Albany: They do not like the way Gov. David Paterson is dealing with the situation.

    Republican leader Dean Skelos and the man who started all this, Pedro Espada Jr., both emerged from talks today to accuse Paterson of pouring gasoline on the fire.

    Meanwhile three members of Paterson’s own party– Hiram Monserrate, who broke with the Democrats and then returned; Carl Kruger, who is allied with the Democratic renegades; and Eric Adams — now want the governor to put his signature where his mouth is. The three do not think the legislation passed during the special Senate sessions Paterson has called are legal, because the the Assembly has not been called into session as well. But in throwing down the gauntlet to Paterson, the three argue that, if Paterson thinks the legislation is  legal, he should sign the 11 bills Senate Democrats passed on Wednesday. To bolster their argument that the Assembly should be on hand too, they note that some measures Paterson want the Senate to act on have not yet passed the Assembly.

    To Paterson, of course, the passage of legislation may be a bit beside the point. He might well reason that the special session is the only way to keep senators in Albany, so they will negotiate and end this crisis sometime in the foreseeable future.

    By on June 25, 2009, 1:12 pm
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    An End in Sight?
    June 25th, 2009

    There may finally be a deal in the battle for control of the Senate. Representatives from both sides met this morning and neither Republicans nor Democrats are occupying the Senate chamber. An announcement could come shortly. Special session is still scheduled for 3 p.m.

    By on June 25, 2009, 11:36 am
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    Third Time's the Charm?
    June 25th, 2009

    There will be another special session of the Senate tomorrow. The last two were  pretty special. Why not have another? Gov. David Paterson won’t have to act on his threat to go to court to get get legislators to attend. Paterson’s office released this statement late this evening:

    “The leadership from both the Republicans and Democrats has notified my office that they will attend tomorrow’s Extraordinary Session. By complying with their constitutionally mandated obligations, there will be no need to seek a court order tomorrow. However, I will continue to use every power at my disposal to ensure that the Senate gets back to the people’s business.”

    It is doubtful that any legislating will occur. Paterson is also looking into docking the senator’s pay.

    By on June 25, 2009, 1:01 am
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    Short but Sour Senate Session
    June 24th, 2009

    The Senate was in session for about five minutes today. Only Democrats showed up. They had been staking out the chamber since early this morning. In the end a few Democrats rose to question the legitimacy of Paterson’s special session and then they left.

    Both Democrats and Republicans are concerned that under state law both houses of the legislature have to be called into extraordinary session to pass the same bills. 

    Both sides are attacking Paterson’s leadership. They say yesterday Paterson’s office did not have legislation ready to present to the Senate in time for the special session, but most importantly the governor’s office did not understand the implications of calling the Senate into special session without the Assembly.

    Democrats say they are headed home. Republicans are staying put. Read the rest of this entry »

    By on June 24, 2009, 3:37 pm
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    If You Thought Today Was Bad...
    June 23rd, 2009

    Chaos ruled the day in the New York Senate as dueling sessions, taunts, heckling and posturing took precedence over actual legislating. Both Republicans and Democrats acted to pass legislation, but it isn’t clear that any of it was done in a legal fashion.

    Republicans came into the chamber after Democrats had arrived and began passing legislation on the “non-controversial calendar,” meaning that unless someone protested it was assumed the bill has full support of the chamber. Republicans passed around 85 bills in this fashion. Democrats remained silent as the votes were called but said later that Republicans did not take quorum to begin the session and therefore the legislation was not acted on legally. Republicans claim they took a quorum.

    At 3 p.m., the scheduled start of the extraordinary session, Democrats began their session, while Republicans tried to move to address the legislation Paterson had directed to be addressed.  Leaders from both sides spoke over each other. Charges of “you’re out of order” rang from both sides of the room. Republicans asked for the bills put forward by Paterson for the special session, Sen. Malcolm Smith said that the bills had yet to arrive.

    Smith called the session at ease. But Skelos, still presiding over his session began to address his members. Skelos complained that Senate staff had not provided them with the bill jackets for the legislation that they acted on.

    “If they were actually in charge, they would have the bill jackets,” said Sen. Kevin Parker who was standing at ease under Smith’s orders. Skelos glared at Parker and Democratic leader Sen. John Sampson told Parker to “Calm down.”

    Republicans left the chamber saying they would return at 5 p.m. Democrats voted on a number of bills put forward by Paterson in the Republicans’ absence.  And they acted, as the Republicans had, in reading from the “non-controversial calendar.” There were no objections and the bills passed.

    At times the scene was disturbing for its utter lack of seriousness, civility and regard for the public trust. Some Senators joked, laughed and seemed to find particular glee in the mess they have created. But tomorrow, as impossible as it seems, may actually be even more chaotic. Read the rest of this entry »

    By on June 23, 2009, 10:29 pm
    In category: Albany,Eye on Albany,Public Finance | 3 Comments »

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    Extraordinary Session Gets Bizarre
    June 23rd, 2009

    The extraordinary session of the Senate, called by Gov. David Paterson, is supposed to start at 3 p.m., the faux session called by Republicans was supposed to start at 2 p.m. Senate Democrats have apparently trumped all that by entering the Senate chamber and locking the doors.

    Both sides say power-sharing negotiations have broken down. This could be a play by the Democrats to simply have control of the gavel before the special session starts. It could also be far stranger than that but who knows? At this point the Democrats have locked themselves away.

    A Democratic Senator told me last week that Democrats could have entered the chamber to hold sessions as Republicans have, “just to lay physical claim to the chamber.” But he said Democrats wanted to focus on the “substance” of the debate, not  “the spectacle.” Plans seem to have have changed.

    Republicans still intend to hold session.

    By on June 23, 2009, 12:21 pm
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    We Want to Know About Unemployment
    June 23rd, 2009

    Between April and May, the city’s unemployment rate jumped from 8 to 9 percent, according to data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics this morning.

    That amounts to more than 361,000 people within the five boroughs who are collecting unemployment insurance from the state — at a maximum of $430 a week per individual. In a city where the least expensive one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan goes for approximately $1,611, those unemployment checks may barely cover your rent.

    We want to know how you do it. In our first partnership with Huffington Post New York, which launched yesterday, we are kicking off a citizen journalism project that will take an in-depth look at unemployment in New York City and state.

    If you rely on unemployment insurance or have contemplated heading to the unemployment office, we want to hear from you. How are you stretching $430 or less across a week? What sacrifices are you making? What help have you received in searching for a new job? Send your responses to [email protected]

    Gotham Gazette will be using your stories for our investigation into the state’s unemployment benefits.

    By on June 23, 2009, 10:30 am
    In category: Albany,Economy,Gotham City,Housing,nextNY,Public Finance,Social Services | 2 Comments »

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    Paterson Puts His Foot Down
    June 22nd, 2009

    Gov. David Paterson has refused the pleas of Senate leaders to delay his call for an extraordinary session of the Senate. Democratic and Republican leaders reportedly asked Paterson for more time to negotiate. The governor declined. Paterson called for a special session at 3 p.m. tomorrow. The Times Union has the slate of legislation that is going to be considered. Legislators have to show up but they can’t be compelled to actually vote.

    Republicans are holding another one of their faux sessions, while hoping one Democrat might just show up to give the quorum. The possibility of another Democratic defector seems to be increasing. Sen. Ruben Diaz told the Observer this morning that he may have to reconsider his allegiance to the Democrats if Paterson brings gay marriage to a vote as part of a special session. Paterson told the New York Times this morning that he intends to do just that.

    Meanwhile, tenants’ advocates are at the Capitol demanding that pro-tenant legislation be included in that slate of legislation. Michael McKee of the Tenants PAC sent out an email this morning asking supporters to contact the Governor’s Office.

    Deputy Mayor Kevin Sheekey paid Senate Democrats a visit during their conference this afternoon. It seems likely that Sheekey is pressing Democrats to pass the Assembly’s Mayoral control legislation. Sen. Daniel Squadron is now sponsoring the Assembly version in the Senate.

    The Assembly is prepared to crank out legislation into tonight, seemingly in an effort to get out of Albany before the Senate actually gets around to any legislating, to ensure that the Senate does not attempt to tinker with any legislation the Assembly has already passed.

    By on June 22, 2009, 3:01 pm
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    Weekly Web Wrap
    June 19th, 2009

  • New York Home Prices Forecast to Drop 40 Percent
    (Time)
  • Cartoonist’s Take on Albany
    (Adam Zyglis)
  • Cartoonist’s Take on Albany and Iran
    (Matt Davies)
  • Weprin Willing to Give up Comfortable Albany Seat
    (Queens Campaigner)
  • The Merits of Full Wrap Ads on Empty Storefronts
    (Public Ad Campaign)
  • Report on Child Deaths Offers No Solutions to Biggest Problem: Traffic
    (Streetsblog)
  • Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Green Rooftop Aviary for Migrating Birds
    (Inhabitat)
  • By on June 19, 2009, 2:42 pm
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