The standoff in Albany between State Senate Republicans and Democrats continues, as Democrats refuse to acknowledge the new reality that they are no longer in control of the chamber after two of their members voted with Republicans to oust Malcolm Smith as majority leader. The latest act to appear in the center ring of this circus is New York Governor David Paterson. After alternately vowing to not let the Senate takeover stand and admitting that there is really nothing he can do about it, Paterson said Sunday that he will call the Senate into special session.
At his press conference, Paterson chided the Senate, saying that the impasse has "inconvenienced the lives of every New Yorker."
"Over the last couple of weeks, the senators' conduct has been laughable, but what's going on around here these days is no joke and I don't find it funny. There will be no excuses and there will be no tolerance for noncompliance with this order. And as they have inconvenienced all New Yorkers for the past few weeks, maybe we'll see how they like feeling the same way."
For all his bluster, however, Paterson has no authority to force the Senate to debate bills or take votes. He can only make them sit in the chamber. And as for his assertion that the standoff has "inconvenienced" New Yorkers, there is no evidence of this. Despite the great tragedy of the New York State Senate holding no official sessions for a couple of weeks, all the traffic lights still work, and all the government offices are still open. How exactly has even one New Yorker been directly affected by the Senate standoff?
Quite the contrary, New York has been better off without a legislature to meddle in their daily lives. Consider the agenda that the governor is so eager to have the Senate consider.
The governor's 55-bill agenda includes legislation to extend the law granting the mayor control over the school system and a bill authorizing the city to hike its 4% local sales tax by another 0.5%.
[Paterson] said once those issues are dealt with, he will call another special session to deal with more controversial matters, like the legalization of same-sex marriage.
And those are just the highlights. Higher taxes and redefining marriage. Goodness knows what else the governor has in store for the state if he only had a Senate to act. Surely the good people of New York City can go another summer without an extra half a percent on top of the already sky high 8.75% sales tax. Recognizing same-sex marriages is not a high-priority concern for the vast majority of New Yorkers, one suspects. With the exception of mayoral control of the schools, this is not the "people's business," as the governor so high-and-mightily put it. It is the politicians' business, the special interests' business.
The New York State GOP, and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skellos in particular, should be commended for giving the nation a glimpse of the consequences when a state legislature fails to act: nothing. There's a lesson in this for state parties and the national Republican Party. If government would stop doing the "people's business," and just let the people go about their business, everything will be just fine. More state legislatures should try it. Maybe even Congress. So for now, let the circus continue in Albany. It will be resolved in its own good time, the governor's frustrations notwithstanding. The people can wait.
Cross posted at Mark on the Right.