Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Precious Legislative Analysis

Tom Precious of the Buffalo News has given us (via Liz) some keen insights into the future governance structure of the newly realigned state senate: "The muddled doings are more than just inside baseball: The inability of Smith and the Democrats to forge a united front indicates the tenuous hold the party will have next month when the seven decades of Republican dominance in the Senate will end. Smith’s shaky hold on his members — who are privately grumbling about his leadership before he even takes over — could have considerable effects on negotiations between the governor and Legislature on a looming $15 billion budget deficit. It also points to something unusual: The Senate will be more of a coalition-type system on many key issues, akin to Israel’s Knesset."

Exactly as we have pointed out; the senate will not be as leadership driven-with greater power to committee chairs, along with the need to build bipartisan coalitions on all important pieces of legislation. Kruger, however, appears to be poised to become first among equals, after Smith apparently passed over upstater Stachowski for the finance post: "Instead, that job will go to Sen. Carl Kruger, D-Brooklyn, one of three dissident lawmakers who threatened to help Republicans retain power if their demands — such as the plum committee assignments — were not met. For decades, depending on who held the position, chairmen of the Senate finance panel have been among the most influential lawmakers in Albany. They can drive money into regions, shape the budget policy debate, hold up gubernatorial appointments and raise lots of campaign cash."

All of these changes will make for greater transparency and democratic scope of action; but at the same time pose new challenges for meeting the state's fiscal crisis. Leadership in this context is going to mean sensitivity to member concerns and the ability to bring disparate personalities and interests together. It should be interesting to watch, if nothing else.