Sixty-two Senators (not all of them bad mind you) who collectively, supposedly, represent millions of New Yorkers in one house of a bicameral legislature are as a whole, failing us miserably. Yesterday Paterson called the first "special" session into the senate chamber and while they did pass a hundred bills, the legality of that is in doubt.
What's worse was the way it was all handled. First the Democrats ran into chamber at 12:30pm and locked themselves in, then the Republicans pounded on the door to start their own session at 2pm and the Democratic caucus joined in around 3pm. The place looked more like a kindergarten class than a primary institution of our state's government.
Quoting heavily (but deservedly) from The Times-Union:
And so it went, with the Democrats acting as if there were no one else in the chamber, until 3 p.m., when Stewart-Cousins gaveled in for Paterson's special session, kicking off 20 minutes of wildly dysfunctional governance.
Stewart-Cousins recognized Smith, who noted that the chamber had not yet received copies of the bills listed in Paterson's call for a special session. Winner and Skelos attempted to interrupt Smith whenever he rose to speak, and Stewart-Cousins did the same to Skelos.
Stewart-Cousins then ordered the Senate to stand at ease until 5 p.m., and the Democrats began to carry on conversations and exit the chamber.
The Republicans made a quorum call to determine if 32 members were present, and Winner called out the names of Democratic members who were in the Senate but not responding to the roll call ("Sen. Adams is present ... Sen. Aubertine is present in the chamber").
Although Winner declared that quorum was established, the absence of the governor's bills prevented the Republicans and Espada from moving forward with the legislation.
Stewart-Cousins banged her gavel. "Senate stands at ease," she said.
"Senate is in session," Winner declared.
As the scene unfolded, the Senate began to devolve into something resembling an unruly study hall. "You gonna punch somebody, Parker?" Sen. Andrew Lanza, R-Staten Island, said as Kevin Parker spoke to the Democratic side of the chamber. (Parker faces assault charges for an incident involving a New York Post reporter.)
"Don't you dare tell me I'm out of order -- you're out of order!," Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson, D-Bronx/Westchester, exclaimed after Winner attempted to gavel her down.
The GOP and Espada ultimately left the chamber, saying they would return once the bills had been received. But it was the Democrats who returned to the chamber first after the bills had been distributed.
Although there were at that point only 31 members in the chamber, the Democrats claimed that since all 62 Senate members had stood for the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of the 3 p.m. session, quorum had been established. In order for that quorum to be questioned, one of the Republicans or Espada would have had to enter the chamber to do so -- which would, of course, had given the Democrats the 32nd member needed for a quorum call.
After the Democrats had passed the legislation on the governor's list and left the chamber, Republicans returned to adjourn for the day.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is your state senate.