Paterson Calls Special Session, But Will it Work?

ALBANY—David Paterson officially officially proclaimed a special session on Tuesday to consider his $3 billion plan to bridge a mid-year deficit as well as other miscellaneous legislative business, even though no budget-cutting agreements have been reached among the governor and legislative leaders.

Paterson’s formal proclamation for the session is a political wish list: it also calls for the legislature to act on bills legalizing same-sex marriage, enacting a cheaper pension tier for new state workers, tougher penalties for those who drive drunk with children in their cars and public authority reform. He also wants a spending cap, something he first proposed in May. In doing this, Paterson is trying to get the bump from end-of-session of which he was deprived of when the State Senate went bonkers for a month. Or he can yell at legislators if they thwart him, something he’s started doing already.

Paterson also sent a letter to the leadership of the Assembly asking to use the chamber to address a joint legislative session on Monday afternoon, an Assembly source confirmed. It’s unclear if lawmakers will show up for that–they are legally required to show up for the special session on Tuesday, but as we remember from earlier this year, not act on anything. A senior Democratic official in the State Senate told the Associated Press that “we’re not returning for a photo op” and Liz reports that some members will be in Puerto Rico.

State Senator Neil Breslin, an Albany County Democrat, said at a press conference Thursday afternoon that he has “every intention” of being there, and Austin Shafran, a conference spokesman says it will return “when there is an agreement.”

“I have not heard that,” Breslin said. “I know they had a conference call, I don’t think there is any intention of boycotting the governor. I know that there are talks going on right now that hopefully will lead to a mutual resolution of a $3.1 billion deficit. I think that both houses are in basic agreement with a majority of the cuts put forth by the governor.”

Assemblyman Jim Tedisco, a Republican, called Paterson’s call “a taxpayer-funded game of finger pointing and attempts to shift the blame for current problems rather than trying to actually solve them” and costs $71,000 a day.

The inclusion of same-sex marriage legislation drew applause from gay rights advocates, who said they were “thrilled” with the inclusion.

“We look forward to hearing our lives and our families debated on the Senate floor next Tuesday,” said Alan Van Capelle, executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda. “It’s now time that each of the 62 State Senators vote their conscience on this bill that has great implications for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers in all parts of the state.”

(An almost wrinkle: Senator Tom Duane, the bill’s sponsor, is mourning the death of his mother Winifred, who passed away this morning at age 84. A funeral is planned for Saturday. The State Senate was unable to pass bills over the summer when State Senator Brian Foley had to miss session due to the death of his father, but Duane is expected to be in Albany on Tuesday.)

It’s unclear if same-sex marriage has the votes to pass, or if it will be taken up. Bills passed in extraordinary session must pass both houses and be signed into law; a bill passed in extraordinary session cannot be paired with a bill passed during the regular session (as the Assembly did with same-sex marriage) and signed into law. Under Parliamentary procedure, each chamber of the legislature can gavel into special session fulfilling their legal requirement under the Constitution and then gavel into regular session, where they are not bound by the governor’s agenda. I expect that’s what will happen, so Paterson’s proclamation doesn’t mean action will be taken on these items.

In his press release, Paterson focused on the need to act urgently for the fiscal health of the state.

“New York can no longer afford delays, and New Yorkers will no longer stand for delays,” he said. “I have met with my colleagues in government and I understand and agree with the need to lessen the impact that these reductions will have on all New Yorkers – but the surest way to mitigate the pain is to act now.”

UPDATE: Paterson spokesman Morgan Hook sent over a statement saying the Democratic intractability is “appalling.”

“As the Governor has said, the time for action to address New York’s budget crisis is now,” Hook said. “A photo-op is going to China for a trade mission while ignoring the widening state budget gap. Addressing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression is no photo-op, and hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who have lost their jobs or homes should be insulted by the insinuation. Governor Paterson is proposing measures to reign in decades of over spending and over taxing in Albany. Every member of the legislature needs to join him to do this. New Yorkers have waited too long for action on what everyone agrees are the most pressing issues facing the State. When New York runs out of money to pay it’s bills, we’ll see if this unnamed Senate ‘official’ want to snap photos next to our plunging bond rating.”