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New York State Senate Returns to Semi-Sanity

July 10, 2009

New York's typically dysfunctional State Senate finally reunited after a month of chaos and was busy passing bills into the wee hours last night.

The Senate has been in a state of paralysis ever since two Democrats split away and sided with the Republicans in voting for a new president and majority leader, shifting the balance of power back toward the Republicans only a few months after the Democrats took control of the chamber for the first time in about four decades.

One of the Democrats quickly returned to the fold, but the other one insisted on staying in a coalition with the Republicans, leaving the Senate evenly split. Lawsuits, public ridicule, threats of withholding the lawmakers' pay, and special legislative sessions, even over the holiday weekend, did not succeed in getting the two sides to agree. Finally the remaining holdout Democrat returned to the fold a day after the governor appointed a lieutenant governor who would be able to cast a deciding vote. The appointment, like everything else, is the subject of a legal challenge, but the lieutenant governor was hastily sworn while he was eating dinner with his wife at a Brooklyn steakhouse in an attempt to get around those challenges. Good luck with that.

Now the Senate is back in action, at least until the next fight breaks out among the temporarily peaceful legislators. That means a whole host of tax increases are probably on the way too. New York City, for instance, was on the verge of getting a hike in its sales tax just before the Senate descended into chaos. Now that tax increase seems assured so this weekend is likely to be a busy one at Macy's. Yonkers too was coping with a budget crisis. And the whole move to overturn the Senate leadership was precipitated by a Rochester billionaire who wanted to put the kibosh on a so-called millionaire's tax. No word on whether that will be on the legislative calendar now.

New York isn't the only state these days coping with a budget crisis that's prompting conflict in the state capital. Just take a look at what's happening in Sacramento. But it's good that the lawmakers in Albany are finally all back in the same room. How long this state of relative comity will last is anybody's guess.

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