Exhibit No. 1 validating the Legislature's title as America's worst: the gross excesses committed by the Senate's former Republican majority.
Inspecting the Senate's $100 million budget, newly empowered Democrats have uncovered the details of how former GOP leader Joe Bruno and his crew operated the chamber as a taxpayer-financed clubhouse. Shamed out of using state helicopters for political travel, Bruno treated himself to a $50,000 van with leather-upholstered captain chairs. His Republicans operated a $3 million-a-year print shop with 60 employees who cranked out four-color promotional publications for Republicans and one-color flyers for Dems.
Exhibit No. 2 validating the Legislature's title as America's worst: the state Senate hearing and vote to confirm a new chief judge for New York's highest court.
Gov. Paterson last month nominated Appellate Division Presiding Justice Jonathan Lippman to fill the lead post on the Court of Appeals. Under the state Constitution, such an appointment required Senate approval - just as the U.S. Senate passes judgment on the qualifications of nominees to America's Supreme Court.
In Washington, they take this duty seriously. Senators pore over a candidate's record and subject the individual to intense questioning. That's not what happened in Albany. There, the Judiciary Committee, chaired by Brooklyn Sen. John Sampson, held a hearing that was both clownish and racially offensive. In a session that lasted all of two hours, not one senator queried Lippman on judicial philosophy, specific decisions or policies he might adopt as top court administrator. Instead, senators railed about supposed racial and gender discrimination by a panel that considered the qualifications of potential nominees. Bronx Sen. Ruben Diaz: "There will come a time when we minority legislators stand up and say, 'No more, master!'"
Sen. Eric Adams of Brooklyn said the judicial system finds blacks qualified to be handcuffed and sent to prison but unqualified to be judges. Never mind that for years there has been a black judge on the Court of Appeals. There is one Hispanic. Until last month, women were a majority of four. The contemptible proceedings were capped by a walkout from the Senate floor by Diaz, Bronx Sen. Pedro Espada and Queens Sen. Hiram Monserrate. In the end, the Senate voted unanimously to confirm Lippman (in the absurdity of Albany world, the three who walked out were counted as yes votes). But the body, under the control of Democrats for the first time in 44 years, did nothing to illuminate why he is fit for office. Majority Leader Malcolm Smith's troops showed only that they can conduct an undignified racial circus.