A lot happened yesterday in the State Senate session in Albany... Or did it?
Each side - the Democrats and the "coalition" of Republicans+1 - passed a number of pieces of legislation. Each side recognized a quorum of senators that included members who weren't actually participating in either of the sessions being simultaneously held. The coalition called roll with Democrats milling about and in the process of leaving the chamber, so they believe that their session was valid; the Democrats reasoned that 62 senators were present for the Pledge of Allegiance, so their session was valid. At the end, nobody's quite sure if anything actually legally passed.
While the agenda for yesterday's session was Governor Paterson's list of "non-controversial" issues, we had one horse in the race - tax increment financing (TIF) legislation related to brownfields clean-up (a project of the Unshackle Upstate Brownfields Working Group). TIF legislation passed, but then again, we don't know if the vote was legal, both because of the confusion and because it wasn't listed on the Governor's agenda, and only items on the Governor's agenda can be taken up in a special session that he calls. I don't know - can we claim a moral victory? (TIF still need Assembly support, anyway, and they've gone home for now).
What's fascinating to us is that - particularly given the beating that senators are taking for "not doing their jobs" - not one of them has held a press conference to say, "I'm going to show up for the other side's session today... Not because I'm joining them as a caucus... Not because I'm supporting their leadership... But because there are bills that we need to vote on, and this stalemate is hurting New York State taxpayers." Especially - if you want to think about it politically - one who represents a marginal district that requires votes from both Republicans and Democrats to win. Sure, you might end up aggravating your party, but your constituents will praise you (and re-elect you) for being "the one" that ended all this BS. And as long as you vote up or down with your conscience and on behalf of your constituents, what does it matter who's standing up front with the gavel in his or her hand - particularly with "non-controversial" agenda before the Senate? Seems simplistic, but that's what leadership and representation is.
This would all be a lot easier to swallow if there appeared to be some advantage for Upstate coming out of it. "Which downstate senator can hold the gavel?" is not inspirational enough for us in Western New York to warrant this political posturing.