Skelos and Sampson Met to Discuss Republican Chairmanships

ALBANY—John Sampson and Dean Skelos, the leaders of their party’s respective conferences in the State Senate, met this morning to discuss the prospect of Republicans taking over the chairmanship of several committees, a Democratic spokesman said.

“Because the discussions are still ongoing, I cannot confirm the members of the committees,” said Austin Shafran, the spokesman, confirming what Liz wrote this morning in her column. “But this is about creating a bi-partisan and effective senate. The chaos that’s gripped Albany has impeded our ability to deliver for New Yorkers.”

I’ve heard from several sources–one of whom was familiar with the ongoing process–that the three most likely senators to accept are Tom Morahan of the Hudson Valley, George Maziarz of Niagara County and Joe Robach of Monroe County. Morahan would take over the committee on Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities, currently chaired by Senator Shirley Huntley, and Maziarz would chair the Energy Committee, one of two controlled by Senator Darrel Aubertine. It’s unclear what committee Robach would chair.

These are interesting choices: Maziarz helped mastermind a failed coup this summer, and his standing among Republicans suffered. Robach was once a Democrat and his father, Roger, was a long-serving Democratic assemblyman. Morahan backed Democrats earlier this year on a bill to create a fund for winterizing homes.

Morahan, Robach and Maziarz did not immediately return calls for comment.

It seems this has been in the works for some time, but according to one Senate source intensified after the same-sex marriage vote earlier this month, which angered Senator Ruben Diaz Sr., a vocal opponent of the measure.

The move would give Democrats more flexibility–while it’s not expected that any of the chairs would conference with the Democrats, they could provide a more comfortable majority than the current one-seat majority.

Shafran said the Republicans would “have the authority that any other chair will” including a “lulu” payment for their service.

It’s unclear what Skelos’ response will be; one of his spokesmen declined to comment.

But Senator Betty Little, a North Country Republicans, told me in a brief phone interview that she was supportive of any movement. When Republican held the majority, Senator Carl Kruger, a Brooklyn Democrat, chaired the Social Services Committee.

“The general public is tired of the partisanship–I know I am–and I think we should try it,” Little said.

Shafran said he hopes a formal announcement could be made this week.