The Associated Press by Michael Gormley - July 10, 2009
ALBANY, NY - New York's Senate stalemate ended Thursday as it started 31 days ago, with a freshman Democrat convulsing the 62-seat house by switching sides and getting a powerful leadership post in the majority. But it took less than 30 minutes on the Senate floor for partisan fights to emerge, with Republicans initially threatening two-hour debates on each of more than 100 noncontroversial bills. Bronx Sen. Pedro Espada's return to the Democratic conference gives Democrats a 32-30 majority for the first time since the June 8 coup. As part of the deal, Espada took the title of Senate majority leader. Espada's move came after Democratic Gov. David Paterson's decision to appoint a lieutenant governor to preside over the Senate, giving his party the upper hand in a chamber that's been divided 31-31."It was never about power, but about empowerment," Espada said at a news conference.
"We are definitely going to reform the state Senate like it's never been reformed before," said Democratic Conference Leader Sen. John Sampson, of Brooklyn. Rank-and-file Democrats welcomed Espada back. That was a contrast to the name-calling of the past five weeks, when many Democrats said they would never serve under Espada in a leadership position. Others called him a thug and turncoat. "I don't think any of us have to accept everybody with open arms," said Sen. Neil Breslin, an Albany Democrat. "He has a right to be in the Democratic conference as an elected Democrat." When asked if it was hypocritical for Democrats to accept Espada as one of their own after calling him a criminal, Breslin said, "There is a level of that." The self-described three amigos - Sens. Espada, Ruben Diaz and Hiram Monserrate - said the end of the standoff is a victory for Latinos, providing them a greater voice. "This is a great achievement for our community. The greatest achievement our community has ever gotten," said Diaz, a Bronx Democrat and leader in the Latino community. The regular session ended June 22. Despite landing back in the minority, Republicans argue they've helped their constituents by insisting on reforms to give every New Yorker a voice in the chamber. They said any change couldn't have happened without their actions. "I'm very disappointed, but in my mind this was never about a power grab, but about reform," said Republican Sen. Thomas Libous of Broome County.