ALBANY – Republicans in the New York State Senate will maintain control of the upper chamber, but not without some help from a group of independent democrats. For the first time in modern memory, the state Senate won’t operate under the authority of a majority leader when it convenes in January. Instead, two “conference leaders” will jointly steer the operation of the Senate: Republican Dean Skelos of Long Island and Jeff Klein (D-Bronx) of the breakaway Independent Democratic Conference.
The unprecedented deal will see control of the Senate shared between the 31-member Republican conference and the five-member IDC.
According to the Albany Times Union, the basics of the arrangement were laid out Tuesday afternoon in a joint news release from the two conferences: Klein and Skelos will “administer joint and equal authority” over the flow of legislation, as well as negotiations over the state budget, appointments to state and local boards, and leadership and committee assignments for their respective conferences.
The new agreement will also “provide for a process” by which the title of temporary president — a singular role required by the state constitution — will alternate between the two conference leaders every two weeks. The agreement will become part of the Senate’s rules for the upcoming legislative session, with the participants referred to as the Senate Majority Coalition.
Good-government advocates said the real test of the coalition would come with the start of session, when the participants will have to divvy up resources and finalize a set of rules for moving legislation through the Senate committee system.
In the statement, each side lavished praise on the other, and on Gov. Andrew Cuomo as their mutual partner. But not everyone was pleased. Democratic spokesman Michael Murphy said it was not a coalition but a coup against all New Yorkers who voted for Democratic control of the Senate.
Under the current alignments, mainline Democrats will hold 25 seats. Two Senate races are currently unresolved: one in which Democrat Terry Gipson holds a comfortable lead over Steve Saland in the Hudson Valley; and the 46th District race between Cecilia Tkaczyk and Assemblyman George Amedore, where court arguments over contested ballots continued Tuesday.