John Broderick brought his wife and two children from Vermont to the New York state Capitol Friday for what he thought would be a momentous day — the end of the three-week-old deadlock in the Senate.
“We are happy to be here on a day when it looks like the stalemate will be resolved,” he said with a big smile at 3 p.m., the minute the Senate began its special session.
Four minutes later, senators adjourned for the day without taking up any legislation. They will meet again today, and every day under order by Gov. David Paterson, until they pass crucial legislation.
Broderick, a former New Yorker and state lobbyist, sat stunned. “It is unfortunate the way it has played out,” he said.
He had been led to believe by Senate leaders minutes earlier that they had resolved their differences. The leaders had emerged to give a news conference after meeting with the governor for nearly 90 minutes.
Standing side by side and wearing smiles, senators Dean Skelos, Pedro Espada Jr. and Malcolm Smith told more than 30 reporters and onlookers they are “seeking resolution to get us out of this gridlock.”
Espada told the crowd, “What is different is we are together. We are no longer throwing shots at one another.”
What hasn’t changed, he said, is that he remains the president pro tempore and that Smith remains majority leader. “There is no giving that up. We will not relinquish what I earned June 8,” he said.
June 8 is the day he and a second Democrat, Hiram Monserrate, joined 30 Senate Republicans to unseat Smith, a Democrat, as majority leader. The move gave Republicans control of a Senate they had lost in the November election. Shortly thereafter, Monserrate rejoined Democrats, leaving the chamber with a 31-31 tie, and senators bickering over who is in charge.
Espada said some call the current situation “a stalemate. We call it parity, some call it justice.”
Espada later said Democrats continue to resist the leadership changes forced on them and that neither side has “agreed on highly contentious issues,” such as leadership. No one could say for certain when the Senate would pass crucial legislation, such as sales tax extenders for more than 30 counties, mayoral control of New York City schools and Power for Jobs, a benefit program affecting more than 500 businesses employing more than 300,000 people.
Outside of the Senate chamber after the session, Andrew Gladwin of Niskayuna and Stephanie Fischer of Latham held up signs admonishing senators for the stalemate. They were the only protesters in sight.
Fischer said senators are wasting time and taxpayers’ money. “It is a mockery of civil law,” she said.
Gladwin said he is angry at senators for doing nothing. He put a sign on his front lawn that says, “I hold Hugh accountable.” Hugh Farley, a senior Republican senator, represents the 44th District where Gladwin lives.
“I am disappointed he has not spoken out on this,” Gladwin said.
Gladwin said he is even thinking of changing his party out of frustration. He is a Republican and plans to enroll as a blank.
Reached Friday night, Farley said he has spoken out, but “I am as frustrated as any citizen over the stalemate.”
He applauded the idea of withholding the senators’ pay until they go back to work, and added he expects key legislation to be passed as soon as possible.