I got this over at Facebook, thought I’d pass it along:
I’m sure by now most of you may have heard already about the situation in the State Senate. However, I’m going to present a brief recap for the sake of clarity.
Monday afternoon some time around 3:45, Republican members of the state senate initiated a reorganization vote, which is what you do when control of a legislative body has changed hands. Two former Democrats, Hiram Monserrate of Queens and Pedro Espada of Brooklyn, joined the Republicans to ostensibly give them control of the chamber.
Approximately an hour later, Malcolm Smith issued a statement asserting that the reorganization vote was illegal, and that he was still the valid Majority Leader, on the grounds that the session had already been closed when the vote took place, making it theater rather than binding.
Currently, the State Senate is still under Democratic control. However, until this situation is resolved, it’s effectively brought all business to a standstill. Yes, that includes urgent items like the spending bills. And we don’t know how this will end up, or when.
If the names Hiram Monserrate and Pedro Espada seem familiar to you, it’s probably because they’ve been in the news a little bit. Espada is under investigation for an estimated $60,000 in campaign finance “irregularities,” (nudge, wink) as well as using his non-profit healthcare organizations for campaign purposes, and possibly attempting to defraud state government to the tune of $2 million dollars. (See Tuesday’s NY Times article.)
Monserrate is, in fact, actually already under indictment for slashing his girlfriend in the face with a broken glass, requiring 20 stitches. The minute that either of them is convicted, they automatically lose their seat, and are replaced in a special election.
You could certainly be forgiven for being baffled why we even let these two guys in the door in the morning. The short answer is because having them there allowed the State Senate majority to get things done, and because neither of them was going to survive the next election. That said, I’ve talked to people on the inside and they are very adamant that the Democratic leadership is not inclined to turn over control of the chamber based on the actions of two criminals who had been exiled from the party.
But Monserrate and Espada aren’t the only players in this event–as it turns out, billionaire and ostensible ex-New Yorker Tom Golisano and his lieutenant Steve Pigeon were the major movers behind setting up the deal in the first place. This seems idiotic to me, given the fact that Golisano is putting back into power some of the same people he tried to get thrown out of office last year, but I can’t speak to Golisano’s motivations. Fortunately he already has, stating that he did it because Malcolm Smith fiddled with his Blackberry during a meeting.
At the moment, the issue is being fought over in Albany and on all the political blogs. So what can the rest of us do in this situation? Get the word out. This fight is going to be decided mostly on public opinion, and most people don’t know the story behind Monserrate and Espada.