“There’s a time for politics and there’s a time for governance,” stormed Gov. David Paterson.
According to reports from Albany, the plot to overthrow the leadership of the State Senate was hatched by Republicans weeks ago–all that was needed to launch it was a couple of Democrats to join them.
State Senators Pedro Espada ,Jr. of the Bronx and Hiram Monserrate of Queens gave them the fuse required for the explosion, and Monday evening, the coup began and has thrown the Senate, if not the entire Legislature, into deeper dysfunction.
It has yet to be determined, Paterson told the AmNews, whether the two defecting Democrats, Monserrate and Espada, have upturned the political applecart because “they feel they want to make a difference in government or because they want power. I think people have put personal interests in front of the interests of the people. The people should revolt in anger the next time they get to vote. “There should be a roll call,” Paterson urged.
When? The AmNews asked. “As soon as they decide that they believe in government and not in anarchy.”
Unofficially, given that the Republicans now have the majority, 32 to 30, Malcolm Smith has been dislodged, but he insists he’s still in charge. “I’m not going to have this institution, which is a very proud institution, be demeaned in a manner like this,” Smith told the press shortly after the mini-putsch occurred.
Espada and Monserrate, both facing legal problems, said they would remain Democrats and continue to work with the Republicans. Over the years, Espada has received heavy fines for not disclosing his political contributions, and his healthcare network is currently under investigation for the misappropriation of funds.
Even before Smith was seated as the majority leader of the Senate, Espada was one of three other senators–Carl Kruger of Brooklyn and Rubin Diaz, Sr. of the Bronx–who attempted to block the political process set to install a new party leader. Monserrate was recently indicted on felony charges after slashing his companion with a broken glass.
Gov. Paterson said the action was “outrageous.”
“The Republicans think they are in control and the Democrats think they are in control and they both want to go to court,” Paterson told the AmNews on Wednesday afternoon. “I have just announced that they both need to go into the Senate chambers and vote. They need to do a roll call and then go through the proper procedure.”
An irate Paterson admonished the players in the upstate shenanigans, declaring that when he was a state senator, there were so many issues that he could not get discussed or appealed because the Republicans were in control and would not allow it. But no one resorted to the mayhem that has ensued since Monday, he said. “What really angers me is that we have so many issues we need to work on during the last two weeks, such as child healthcare and jobs for New Yorkers.
“I should be…right now talking to you about the issues the people need Albany to address, but once again, Albany’s dysfunction had raised its ugly head,” Paterson later announced. “We should be talking about how to put our fiscal house in order, or how to reform ethics, or unemployment insurance, or industrial development associations. We should be talking about how to cap property taxes or to cut spending. We should be talking about whether or not we’re going to have marriage equality, whether there will be more choices for women, or healthier choices for children, should we have more or less gun control. These are the issues regardless of how we stand, that we debate in the last two weeks of session, but that has been taken from us, from those who’ve said that something was secret but now their secret has shut the government functions down.”
“It’s questionable whether this move was legal,” said State Sen. Bill Perkins, who said that he, like his fellow Democrats, was caught by surprise. “We’re looking into this, and the attorney general’s office may be doing that also.”
At the moment, the issue seems to be headed to court; meanwhile, folks are generally wondering how such a move will impact same-sex marriage, property taxes and mayoral control of the schools, all items pending before the Senate recesses in two weeks. “None of this will change the agenda,” Perkins noted. “And, you have to remember, there was not a vote taken.” The senator was also concerned about the role of billionaire Tom Golisano in the coup. “He seems to be taking credit for it, so there could be some questionable legal matters involved.”
Golisano appeared at a press conference with Espada and Monserrate, which gives further credence to his part in the event. A few weeks ago, it was reported that Golisano has changed his legal residence to Florida because of the plan to hike the taxes on the rich in the state. If the coup becomes law, then Republican Dean Skelos of Long Island would become the new majority leader, and Espada would be the president, which puts him in line to become governor if Paterson is out of the state or in any way incapacitated. Paterson said he had no plans to leave the state.