Dems, GOP stage dueling NY Senate sessions
(AP) - Republicans and Democrats dueling for control of New York's Senate held simultaneous legislative sessions in their chamber Tuesday, exchanging jeers and catcalls before quickly taking a break.
Democratic Gov. David Paterson had called the session to break a two-week stalemate and get the Senate moving on issues with June 30 deadlines, including bond financing, municipal taxes and mayoral control of New York City schools.
Several senators exchanged sharp words in the latest confrontation since Republicans tried to regain a majority with the help of two dissident Democrats, one of whom later flipped supportback to his own party. That left both sides deadlocked with 31 votes each.
Tuesday's brief session was marked by heckling and laughing. Democrats in control of the audiovisual system cut off microphone and camera feeds when Republicans spoke.
Sen. Andrea Stewart Cousins, a Westchester County Democrat, had the podium. Democrats entered the chamber more than two hours early, getting the jump on Republicans who planned to occupy the ornate room at 2 p.m., an hour before Paterson's scheduled start time. The Democrats briefly locked the doors, barring reporters and the public.
After the doors were unlocked and the Republican-led faction arrived, Elmira Republican Sen. George Winner was denied the podium and directed legislative business from the Senate floor separately from Cousins.
Winner said he didn't have legislation from the governor's office, consisting of some 95 bills, including 36 extending or increasing municipal taxes and aid set to expire Nov. 30.
Sen. Malcolm Smith, a Democratic leader, said he also didn't have the bills, and they needed to sort it out with Paterson. Cousins ruled the session would stand at ease. Republican Winnerruled the session adjourned.
Paterson aides said the bills had been provided to the Senate two hours earlier.
"The only thing that matters to the governor and to the people of New York is for senators to go back into the chamber to vote on critical legislation that impacts the everyday lives of real New Yorkers," spokeswoman Marissa Shorenstein said before the Senate convened. "The governor doesn't find these silly games amusing, and neither do the people of New York."
Earlier Tuesday, the Republican faction and the Democratic conference failed in talks to work out a possible power-sharing arrangement.
Sen. Thomas Libous, a Binghamton Republican who ran the June 8 parliamentary overthrow that led to the coalition's claim of leadership, said there's one main difference in both sides' proposals.
"We want to do a power-sharing agreement through December of 2010; they only want to do one for two days," Libous said. "We don't think 31-31 is going to go away after this week."
Paterson spokesman Peter Kauffmann said the governor will make his next move after meeting with the Senate leaders and seeing what they do when they resume their session, or sessions. But Paterson won't let them adjourn, he said.
"They are here every day," Kauffmann said.