ALBANY—Most the Democrats in the State Senate have barricaded themselves in the chamber.
“At this point, they refuse to enter into an operating agreement and put aside the issue of who is the temporary president so we can conduct extraordinary session,” State Senator Eric Schneiderman, a Democrat, told reporters. As he spoke, his colleagues were slipping into the chamber.
The Democrats arrived around 12:30. It's unclear what's going on. All the doors are locked, and journalists as well as Republican staffers cannot get in.
The move comes just over two hours before a 3 p.m. extraoridinary session called by David Paterson; who will preside over that session is in dispute.
It appears the Democrats are going for squatters' rights.
"They're just holding their seats," Sergeant-at-arms William Martin said to reporters.
UPDATE: I'm in the balcony looking down on the chamber now. The doors are locked, but journalists and a few other curious onlookers walked through Espada's office, which has a door leading here. His wife and grandson are sitting in his office watching TV. They are being very hospitable.
Below me, Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins is sitting at the dais ready to preside. About 20 Democrats are in their seats or milling about. The doors remain locked, and sergeants at arms have been posted at every entrance. The lights are dimmer than usual.
I called Senator Diane Savino, who I could see sitting at her desk, for an explanation.
"We're preparing for the extraordinary session," she replied, casually. "We wanted to make sure that we're here, and that the bills on the active list are ready to go."
I asked about Stewart-Cousins, who has not moved from the dais.
"I believe Senator Stewart-Cousins has the chair," Savino replied. "We're planning to stay here until we've concluded with the extraordinary session."
I also got Senator Marty Golden, a Brooklyn Republican, on the line for comment.
"I'm just in awe that these guys would lock themselves in the chamber," he said. He called it "hypocritical" and said that he didn't understand it.
He said Republicans intend to show up for the extraordinary session called by David Paterson for 3 p.m.
UPDATE: As 2 p.m. has come and gone, more staffers flowed into the chamber. The galleries were officially opened, but the lights remained dim.
David Paterson met with Senators Dean Skelos and Pedro Espada, the leaders of the Republican-led coalition, then had his spokeswoman Marissa Shorenstein issue this statement:
"The only thing that matters to the Governor and to the people of New York is for senators to go back into the chamber to vote on critical legislation that impacts the everyday lives of real New Yorkers. All other distractions are unacceptable. The Senate will not go home until they have addressed the people's business. Governor Paterson called a special session for today at 3:00pm. The doors will be open at 3:00 and the Senate will return to work. The Governor doesn't find these silly games amusing, and neither do the people of New York."
UPDATE: It gets weirder.