‘Ambassador’ Smith Heading to California

ALBANY—State Senator John Sampson got to do most of the back room negotiating over the deficit package. Senator Malcolm Smith gets to go to California.

Smith, a Queens Democrat, will leave tomorrow for a three-day forum of the National Conference of State Legislators in San Diego, his spokesman Austin Shafran said. Smith will attend seminars on high-speed rail and the “race to the top” program for educational funding.

This highlights Smith’s new role in the chamber, what Shafran called an “ambassador for the State Senate.”

Smith remains the Senate’s president; he was supposed to step aside January 1 as a condition of the deal that put John Sampson in charge of the Democratic conference and brought Pedro Espada Jr. and Hiram Monserrate back into the fold, ending a month-long stalemate. It’s unclear whether he’ll be going anywhere.

Shafran said of the Smith-Sampson dynamic: “They have an outstanding personal and professional relationship. It’s very difficult to lobby for federal funds while putting together a comprehensive legislative agenda.”

State funds will be used for a $240 registration fee, Shafran said, but all other expenses will be paid out of pocket with the plan of having them reimbursed by the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee.