ALBANY—At this rate, the State Senate might not finish today.
The chamber is hearing the third of nine bills comprising the state budget, and after two hours Deputy Majority Leader Jeff Klein moved to close debate. Senators have spent the last forty minutes debating whether to do that.
"I am deeply concerned with this proposal," State Senator Mike Nozzolio said. "You all violated the law that you supported just two years ago when you refused to allow open conference committees where these bills would have been vetted publicly and properly. Where's the transparency?"
This vote is falling along partisan lines, which means the Democrats should prevail, force a vote on this piece of the budget – which deals with health care spending – and move on. But the longer this takes, the likelier it becomes that the Senate will have to remain in session tomorrow, or the next day.
That prompted State Senator Ruben Diaz Sr. to accuse the Republicans of stalling so they can collect per diem checks – he said they're $160 – if they stay longer.
"We are espousing and stalling and repeating the same thing," Diaz said. "and is it really going to change anything?"
(The answer to that is no; it comes down to votes, and the Democrats have secured the necessary 32 by allowing State Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson to vote earlier this morning.)
"By stalling and stalling and stalling, you are going to get $160 each!" Diaz Sr. said, vowing to return his own money.
State Senator Hugh Farley, of nearby Niskayuna, rose to respond. He lives close enough to the Capitol that he is ineligible to collect per diems.
"Senator Diaz: Senator Breslin, McDonald and I agree with you. We will donate any per diem we get."
State Senator John Flanagan said Diaz was being hypocritical because he was "the last guy in the room today." Diaz had migrated from his seat to lean on the chair of Hiram Monserrate down the aisle, and called out "I'm here! I'm here!" until he was gaveled down.
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