The Senate Democrats’ new chief met quietly with GOP leader Dean Skelos shortly before New Year’s Eve — but couldn’t get the Republican to show his hand on a key rule-change proposal.
Andrea Stewart-Cousins of Yonkers had a “pleasant” chat with Skelos at his
Long Island office, a source said. But he would not disclose details of planned
changes to Senate rules that will allow the chamber to be run jointly for the
She asked again days later, with the same result.
She then fired off a letter on Friday seeking a copy of the rules —
particularly the one that is expected to mandate that Skelos and Independent
Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein alternate as Senate president every two
weeks and share power over legislation.
That would leave Dems in the minority despite their having won a majority of
seats on Election Day.
A vote is planned for Wednesday, when the Senate goes into session for the
first time in 2003.
Senate Republicans say the rules have yet to be finalized.
But Democrats fear the GOP and the five-member Independent Democratic
Conference are keeping the rules secret as long as possible so they can be
passed with little chance for advanced public scrutiny.
They charge that Republicans, seeking to minimize debate, changed the
scheduled opening day of the session from Tuesday to the traditional hour before
the governor’s State of the State address. They argue that, given the historic
nature of the changes, one hour of debate is not enough, particularly if they
are not given sufficient time to review the rules.
The Republicans “talked about unprecedented changes with the way the chamber
is going to be governed, then they resort back to the same old game of hide the
ball,” one Democratic insider said.
Senate Republican spokesman Scott Reif said “it’s absolutely not true” that
the Republicans and IDC are using the governor’s speech to put the Democrats on
an impossible deadline.
“The Senate and Assembly always organize prior to the governor’s state of the
state,” he said.
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