ALBANY—Around 3 p.m., pandemonium broke out in the State Senate chamber, proving the ongoing leadership struggle in the chamber is anything but resolved.
Democrats had entered around 12:30 p.m., and occupied the chamber's dais. Their strategy was to preserve control of the chamber's center in preparation for a special session convened for 3 p.m. today by David Paterson.
Around 2:30 p.m., Republicans entered the chamber and began moving through an active list of local measures. They did not call a quorum before doing so. With most Democrats sitting in their chairs, they began calling a roll and votes on the legislation, which they proclaimed passed 62-0.
At 3:00 p.m., Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a Westchester Democrat, banged a gavel from the dais and started acting. What ensued was a dueling back and forth, where Democrats acknowledged Democrats and conducted their session, with Republicans led by Senator George Winner and Jack Casey recognizing Republicans. The sides shouted at times. Each declared the other out of order.
They agreed on one thing: there were no bills for the special session. Stewart-Cousins moved the chamber stand at ease until 5 p.m. Senator Malcolm Smith, a Democrat, said the bills were delayed by Paterson's staff. Senator Dean Skelos, the Republican leader, claimed they were being held by Angelo Aponte, the Senate Secretary.
(Peter Kauffmann, a spokesman for Paterson, said "It is not true. The bills were delivered to the Senate in advance of the session." State Senator Eric Schneiderman clarified that the bills were received, but were not copied or adequately prepared. Just before 4 p.m., they were being distributed through the chamber.)
Both sides cleared the chamber, but Democrats continue to occupy the dais.
Smith accused Republicans of holding a "mock session" on the floor that was invalid because no quorum was called.
At one point, Skelos rose to talk about the lack of bills for the extraordinary session.
"If you were actually in charge, wouldn't you have the bill jackets?" Senator Kevin Parker asked.
Skelos glared at him.
"My friends and colleagues on the other side of the aisle certainly are in a disruptive mood, not a constructive mood," Skelos replied.
Senator Andrew Lanza, a Staten Island Republican, said of the Democrats: "They're flouting the law. They're ignoring the reality that there was a democratic vote here in the chamber. No one could ignore that 32 members voted for a leadership change."
Regardless, I'm told Republicans will be back in the chamber at 5.