Thursday, May 31, 2018

NY Democratic State Senators Miss Passing Amendments Again

Even by the sometimes perplexing standards of New York’s State Capital, the Scene in the New York State Senate on Wednesday afternoon was something to behold. At just past 4:30 p.m., 31 Democratic State senators walked into the Chamber, determined to force a Vote on a pair of Bills related to Women’s Reproductive Rights. They expected to be confronted by an Equal Bloc of Republicans, save for one rogue Democrat, Simcha Felder, unlikely to allow such a Vote. Under normal circumstances, the Republicans would simply have mustered the requisite 32 Votes to shoot down any so-called Hostile Amendment that the Democrats tried to force to the Floor.

But seldom are there normal times in Albany, and Wednesday was no exception. At the moment, the Senate is both Divided and Depleted: Senator Tom Croci (R-3rd District, Long Island), announced earlier this month that he had been Recalled to Active Duty in the Navy and would not seek Re-Election in November. Despite Mr. Croci’s return to Military Service, Republicans in Albany insist that he is still in Public Office, and able, like a Legislative equivalent of a rubber ball, to “potentially bounce back and forth for the remainder of session,” according to Scott Reif, the spokesman for the Senate Republicans. But Mr. Croci’s Absence in the Capitol has left his Republican Colleagues one vote shy of the 32-Person Majority they need to Pass or kill Legislation.

This equation had the Democrats sensing an opportunity; should a Vote result in a 31-31 Tie, Democrats argue that the State Constitution allows for the Lieutenant Governor to cast the Deciding Vote. So it was that Kathy Hochul, the Democratic Lieutenant Governor, was standing at the ready, in ambush, to take her position on the Rostrum on Wednesday and Cast the Vote to allow the Amendment. And then, Republicans pulled a Maneuver of their own: setting aside the entire List of Bills that were to be Voted on. “The calendar has been laid aside for the day,” said Senator Joseph A. Griffo (R-47th District), who Presided over the Chamber’s proceedings.

“What just happened?” a Democratic Aide wondered aloud on the Floor of the Senate Chamber. It was, all in all, another Dysfunctional day in the State Capitol, where the Legislature appears poised to wrap up its Three remaining Weeks of Session with a whimper, a fact acknowledged even by the Legislators themselves, some of whom have begun discussing whether to just end the whole thing Early to save Taxpayers’ Money. “My colleagues across the aisle understood that we have an opportunity to actually pass” the Bills, Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-35th District), the Democratic Minority Leader, said to Reporters at day’s end. “And rather than have to face the vote, they decided to end the session.” But when asked if the Democrats would try the same maneuver every day for the rest of Session, Ms. Stewart-Cousins demurred, saying she planned to push every day for “things that are important.”

The Democrats’ seeming perpetual Obstacle to a Majority remains Simcha (D-17th District, Brooklyn), who has always sat and voted with Republicans, giving that Party Leadership in the Chamber. Last week, Members of the Democratic Party’s Executive Committee voted, in a Nonbinding Move, to Expel Felder, who joked that the Democrats might “build a wall” to keep him Out of the Party. That already Strange Power Structure was given an additional twist by Croci, whose exact whereabouts remain shrouded in Semi-Secrecy. Asked to clarify the Senator’s exact geographic coordinates, his Spokeswoman, Christine Geed, said on Tuesday he was “in the States,” presumably meaning dry land somewhere.

Republicans, led by the Majority Leader, Senator John J. Flanagan (R-2nd District, Long Island), scoff at the notion that Croci’s absence automatically means that Ms. Hochul can step in and cast the 32nd Vote. Moreover, they blame Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who has attacked Republicans more frequently in recent months, for punting on the rest of the Legislative Session. “Governor Cuomo has thrown in the towel,” Flanagan said, in a Statement earlier this month. “That’s unfair to the hard-working people of this state, and I vehemently disagree with his posture.”

Croci is just one of Five Republican Senators who have said that they will not be Running for Re-Election, a scenario that has Democrats dreaming of winning an Outright Majority in Albany’s Upper Chamber. But on Wednesday, a show of what that Control might look like was not to be.
“The Senate Republicans no longer have a functional majority, but that clearly isn’t stopping them from holding up progress,” Ms. Stewart-Cousins said in a Statement. “Today we saw why we need a Senate Democratic majority, because every single Senate Republican decided to run away rather than address and protect women’s rights.”

Mr. Reif, the Senate Republican Spokesman, said that his Caucus should not be held to blame. “The calendar was laid aside after Democrats delayed session for nearly 90 minutes,” he said. “There are a number of local bills important to senators on both sides of the aisle that we expect to pass in the coming weeks, so we can conclude our work in an orderly manner.”

For the second straight day, the State Senate Failed to move any Legislation because the GOP Majority could not muster the 32 Votes necessary to pass a Bill. That is because a Long Island Senator decided to return to Military Service, effectively tying the Chamber. Republicans Rejected an attempt by Democratic Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul to Break the Impasse.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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