Dems Thank Frank, Claim ‘Legal’ Session, Prepare for Another Extraordinary Session

ALBANY—Democrats in the still-hobbled State Senate are claiming not only that the legislation they passed earlier today is valid, but that they deserve credit for doing it.

"The rubber met the road today," said Senator John Sampson, whose title is "conference leader."

"We have a coalition. Thirty-one Democrats and one Republican: Senator Frank Padavan. The gridlock has been vacated. Substantial legislation has been passed."

About a dozen people from his conference—some quietly chanting "thank Frank"—stood in front of cameras at a press event that started 45 minutes late, and at which they answered no questions.

It should be noted that Padavan is no willing participant in this "coalition," and earlier signed an affidavit saying attempts to count him as present in the chamber were "fraudulent." Republicans maintain this session was not valid.

At best, it would seem the Democrats passed bills on a technicality. The legality of this position may be challenged later, and in preparation Democratic senators countered Padavan's affidavit with 10 of their own. David Paterson has indicated he will not sign the bills that were passed, but if they are sent to him by the Assembly—their house of origin—they automatically become law after 10 calendar days.

Later, when asked about Sampson's statement, Senator Diane Savino said, "I think he meant it tongue in cheek."

On the docket for this evening is another extraordinary session called by Paterson, where lawmakers are to consider legislation to renew mayoral control of schools.

Sampson, who said yesterday the house would not consider the legislation, met with David Paterson today to discuss the bill, and issued a statement saying, "[N]othing is more important than the education of our children." The statement went on:

"Despite urgent pleas from their ally, Mayor Bloomberg, Senate Republicans remain determined to derail any progress in ensuring the issue of School Governance receives the deliberation it deserves. Members of our conference have real concerns which should be discussed and addressed before passage of this legislation. We have a mandate from our constituents to represent their interests and reasonably negotiate an agreement that will serve our students, parents, and community."

Earlier, I asked Senator Daniel Squadron, a Democrat who supports renewing school-governance legislation, whether it would be voted on. "That takes a lot of factors at this point, but I hope to have a chance to. It's critically important," he said. When I asked what those factors are, he replied, "So far, in my first year, I have not made a prediction that has been accurate yet. And I'm not going to make that mistake again."

Democrats remained in the chamber as the 7 p.m. session. Earlier this afternoon, an Appellate Court denied Republican attempts to have a court order requiring all 62 senators to attend extraordinary session at once stayed.

Earlier, senators from both parties entered the chamber, but acted on no legislation. Dems Thank Frank, Claim ‘Legal’ Session, Prepare for Another Extraordinary Session