John J. Bonacic's Blog
Senate Democrats have locked themselves into the Senate Chamber.
After the vote on June 8 to change leadership, Senate Democrats refused to come to session day in and day out. Now, they have locked themselves into the Senate chamber, refusing to hand over the gavel.
You don't have to take my word for it, read the NY Daily News (from June 24, 2009):
Capitol gone crazy: Albany Democrats lock themselves in Senate chamber
Updated Tuesday, June 23rd 2009, 9:33 PM
Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins stands at the rostrum. Reporters and photographers weren't allowed in the Senate chamber.
The Capitol's dysfunction sunk to amazing new depths Tuesday as warring senators held dueling sessions in the same room at the same time - and accomplished absolutely nothing.
Gov. Paterson's effort to break the leadership stalemate with a special Senate session only furthered the confusion when Democrats accused the governor of not sending legislation on time.
"Keystone comedy," said Sen. Carl Kruger (D-Brooklyn).
Adding to the turmoil, Democrats questioned whether Paterson's special session and the bills they passed were even legal, arguing that the governor needed to call both houses of the Legislature into session - not just the Senate - to adopt legislation.
Austin Shafran, a spokesman for the Senate Democrats, would not comment last night on whether Democratic senators would show up for a special session that Paterson called for today, saying only that the Democrats would discuss the matter behind closed doors this morning.
Complicating the matter even further, Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr., a fierce opponent of same-sex marriage, suggested he may bolt the Democratic conference because of Paterson's inclusion of the gay marriage bill in a special session called for today.
Diaz (D-Bronx) and Kruger were later seen meeting with Republican lawmakers in their conference room. One flip would give the GOP-led coalition a quorum to control the Senate.
"Maybe I solve the whole the problem [today]," Diaz said. "Maybe we ... decide who's really in control."
The disputed - and possibly illegal - session capped a dizzying day in which Democrats briefly locked themselves in the Senate chamber. Later, they kept Republicans off the rostrum.
More than 20 Democrats locked themselves in the chamber hours before Paterson's special session and moments after talks with Republicans over a power-sharing agreement collapsed.
It marked the first time Democrats had set foot in the chamber since the Republican-led coup on June 8.
The Democratic move - accompanied by sergeants at arms stationed in front of chamber entrances - seemed designed to preempt the Republicans from getting there first.
When GOP lawmakers finally entered the chamber, Sen. George Winner (R-Utica) tried to climb the rostrum but was blocked by a sergeant at arms.
The GOP responded by calling the session to order from the floor, with Winner presiding from in front of the podium. When Democrats refused to participate, the Republicans approved 85 bills, declaring each vote to be 62 to 0.
Things got weirder when it became time to start Paterson's special session, which was called to deal with issues like mayoral control of the schools and authorization to hike the city sales tax.
In a bizarre scene, even by Albany standards, two senators claimed to be the chamber's presiding officer and two claimed to be controlling floor operations.
"I thought it was an avoidable circus," Winner said.
Democrats voted on only 14 of the 55 bills Paterson asked them to approve. Republicans, who left the chamber before Democrats voted, called the actions illegal.