Thursday, December 04, 2008

Deal Done!

As Liz is reporting, the senate insurrection has been put to bed: "The leadership battle that has frozen the Senate since Election Day is over, and the three renegade senators known as the Gang of Three have all pledged to support Senate Minority Leader Malcolm Smith for majority leader in exchange for an agreement that will result in what Sen. Carl Kruger called "significant and historic reform" of how the chamber operates."

The details of the reform package weren't announced, but it appears that it will encompass the legislative process/transparency and bipartisan governance structure issues that the three amigos had put forward. Before any one can comment more fully on what has transpired, a greater understanding of the nature of the reforms will need to be done.

And as City Room is reporting: "Three dissident Democrats who had been debating whether to side with their own party or join Senate Republicans have worked out a tentative power-sharing deal with Malcolm A. Smith, the Democratic minority leader, that would give Democrats control of the chamber, according to a person involved the negotiations."

Fascinating development, no? And it looks as if Latino empowerment will be advanced as advertised: "One person with intimate knowledge of the closed-door negotiations — which occurred at the University Club, at 1 West 54th Street, in Midtown Manhattan — said that Mr. Smith might become president pro tempore of the Senate, a constitutional office that is the Senate’s top position, while Mr. Espada would be elected majority leader and be appointed vice-chairman of the powerful Senate Rules Committee, giving him significant authority in the chamber and putting a Latino in one of the top positions in New York State."

As for Kruger, who led the effort: "Mr. Kruger would be named chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, a major post with the power to approve gubernatorial nominees and a lead role in negotiating state budgets. And the senators will sit in alphabetical order in the chamber, rather than divided by party, along with other changes to the Senate’s rules that will make it more democratic–something Mr. Smith has long advocated."

This is quite some distance from where Kruger-someone who had warm ties to Joe Bruno-stood just a few weeks ago. At that point, it would have been impossible to imagine that he would have been given any position of real importance.

What will be fascinating to see, is how a more democratic state senate will actually operate-and whether process reforms will be helpful-or not-in dealing with the state's fiscal crisis. Still, the three amigos really shook things up; and did so without damaging their own political standing and clout.


As Liz is reporting: "Here's what we know so far. Keep in mind that all of this is based on a handshake deal and requires changes in the Senate rules, which is also subject to a vote. The positions of Senate majority leader and president pro tempore, which were both held by former Majority Leader Joe Bruno, have now been bifurcated. Senator-elect Pedro Espada Jr. will be the majority leader while Smith is president pro tempore. The majority leader post in other legislative bodies in New York, the City Council and the Assembly, for example, is not one with a lot of power. Espada told me he has been assured by Smith that his position will "have absolute substance," and, as a result, "the Latino empowerment issue has been substantially enhanced."

As for Kruger, who engineered the rebellion: " Sen. Carl Kruger will not get the Housing Committee, as some activists like ACORN's Bertha Lewis, had feared, but he will chair a pumped-up Senate Finance Committee. Recall that this was something the Republicans proposed in an effort to woo the Gang of Three to their side. The committee will have an enhanced staff and a fair degree of independence." And, as Azi affirms: "The third holdout, Carl Kruger, will be named chairman of the powerful finance committee."

Ruben Diaz will get the Aging Committee, as he had hoped; and will not have to fight any gay marriage bill on the floor. As he told Azi: “I, Senator Diaz, am relieved everything is going to be OK.”