State Senate Work Stopped For 2nd Day By Political Squabbles
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The New York state Senate abruptly stopped work Thursday for the second day in a row as legislators squabbled over political issues while they entered the home stretch of the 2018 session with plenty of issues pending.
Democrats and Republicans in the 63-seat chamber blamed each other for gridlock that threatened to bottle up legislation with less than a dozen working days scheduled before the Senate and Democrat-controlled Assembly adjourn June 20.
The Senate GOP usually holds a 32-31 majority, with the edge provided by Sen. Simcha Felder, a Brooklyn Democrat who votes with Republicans. But Sen. Tom Croci, a Long Island Republican, has been called up for duty by the Navy Reserve, leaving the chamber at 31-31 yet still under GOP control.
Republicans on Wednesday blocked Democrat-supported legislation on women's reproductive health initiatives. Democrats sought to force a vote on an amendment that would strengthen abortion rights in the state, but Republicans canceled the day's list of bills to be considered and ended the week's first of just two daily sessions without taking up any legislation.
Retaliation came Thursday when Democrats declined to support a Republican measure involving concussion protocols for private schools. That prompted GOP lawmakers to halt work.
"The Democrats have decided they don't want to govern," said Senate GOP Leader John Flanagan, of Long Island. "It's embarrassing. It's disgusting. We have a lot of things that we need to get done. But if this is how they're going to conduct business, that's their problem. It's their fault."
Democrats said it was the Senate GOP that was playing games with the longtime process for bringing items to the floor for a vote.
"Quite honestly, we're trying to really get the people's business done, and I'm hoping that our colleagues across the aisle will agree that it's a good thing to do," said Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, of Yonkers. "Obviously we have processes and procedures in place that help that get done. By throwing those out of the window we're not serving anyone."
Since legislation must pass both the Senate and Assembly before it can become law, the stalemate could keep several key issues from being resolved, including teacher evaluations and early voting, along with a couple of potential late entries: sports betting and marijuana legalization.
Croci, a Navy commander who left for duty in early May, could break the Senate gridlock if he's able to return to Albany while on leave before the end of the session, but it wasn't clear Thursday if that would happen.
"That's a topic of discussion for Sen. Croci and the federal government," Flanagan said.