Senate Heading Toward Session Friday as Rockefeller Reform Drags

ALBANY—It looks like the State Senate will – gasp – have to hold session on Friday.

Members on both sides of the aisle said they expect to be at the Capitol tomorrow, and while debate on the bills comprising the state budget - three have been passed so far, the fourth, containing a restructuring of the Rockefeller drug laws is on the floor now – continues, it is unlikely to be completed by tonight.

"I've told Malcolm Smith that at the latest, 9:30, because I don't want any more members to go to the hospital," Minority Leader Dean Skelos just told me in a corridor outside his office. He, too, expects to be in Albany tomorrow.

"I'm not going to slow down debate," he added. "This is the first opportunity we've had to fully discuss these bills."

This means, as State Senator Ruben Diaz Sr. pointed out earlier, each senator will collect a $160 per diem. So they've got that going for them. Neither senators nor assemblymembers will be paid until all the bills are passed.

The debate over Rockefeller drug laws prompted Republican State Senators Marty Golden and Dale Volker – both unabashed critics of the "drug dealer protection plan" – to offer an amendment that would excise the restructuring language from this budget bill, which includes language pertaining generally to public protection.

"Even if you support the change proposed today, this is not the place to do it," Golden said, noting that the issue should be considered independent of the budget. (Democrats note it has major fiscal impacts, and as such, is rightfully embedded.)

Then he criticized the legislation in dramatic terms.

"This bill is a disaster," he said during floor debate. "And people – yes – people will die."

The amendment, of course, failed. And the bill is expected to pass. Eventually.

UPDATE: The State Senate gaveled out of session at 10:45 p.m., having passed the Article VII bill with the proposed Rockefeller restructuring and an appropriations bill to fund it. Deputy Majority Leader Jeff Klein called session for 8 a.m. Friday. I was watching via webcast, but heard some people howl at the mention of the early start.

Four more bills to go.