Progress! Two Sides in the Senate Chamber, Under Duress

ALBANY—Today's Senate session featured something different: both partisan factions taking the floor at the same time.

After gaveling in, Democrats called a quorum—which has not happened since shortly after the coup, when both parties began conducting simultaneous extraordinary sessions in a show of something or another—and as they were reading absentees, Republicans and Senator Pedro Espada Jr. entered the chamber.

Senator Dean Skelos, the Republican leader, explained that his members entered the chamber because "the judge gave us an order to go in." Jack Casey, an attorney representing the Republicans, said that during an appearance this morning, Judge Bernard Malone "declined to say" whether an automatic stay under the Public Officers law—as Casey has contended—existed for Senators once they filed a notice of appeal. A court hearing at 3 p.m. will determine the issue.

On the floor, Skelos addressed Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a Democrat who was on the dais, by saying, "We do not acknowledge you as the presiding officer." He said he would take up Democrats on their offer to negotiate in public over an active list and "a long-term agreement through 2010" over the operation of the chamber. He proposed the sides meet at noon.

After whispering for a moment to Democratic leader Malcolm Smith, Skelos made a motion to adjourn the extraordinary session. Before a vote could be taken, Senator Jeff Klein, a Bronx Democrat, offered a resolution for the bipartisan operating agreement Democrats presented Monday. Republicans were visibly uncomfortable, and claimed a motion was on the floor to adjourn. Klein also moved to adjourn, and senators gaveled out.

"I guess they had a discussion about letting them withdraw gracefully instead of having a food fight," Senator Eric Schneiderman, a Democrat, said. He said Democrats would be in the chamber at noon to discuss "vanilla bills" including sales tax reauthorizations and an extension of the Power for Jobs program.

This list does not contain legislation authorizing mayoral control of schools. Progress! Two Sides in the Senate Chamber, Under Duress