Thursday, April 2, 2009

Comptroller Bill Thompson will receive the first formal endorsement of an elected official for his mayoral bid this evening from Assemblyman Peter Rivera, the Legislature's highest-ranking Latino elected official.


"With our city and our country in economic crisis, New York's upcoming mayoral election is more important than ever," Rivera wrote in an on-line invite to tonight's event, which is taking place at the American Legion in the Bronx.

"Bill Thompson has transformed the Office of the New York City Comptroller into one that effectively combines fiscal responsibility, innovation, and activism," the assemblyman continued. "As Comptroller, he has fought hard for an affordable city and for good jobs throughout all five boroughs. Because of this, Bill Thompson is the only candidate who we can trust to fight for us in these tough economic times."

This announcement is coming on the same day that Mayor Bloomberg is receiving the support of UFCW Local 1500 - his first labor endorsement and a blow to Thompson, as the union supported the comptroller for re-election in 2005 and remained neutral in the mayor's race that year.

Rivera is an outspoken lawmaker who led one aspect of the charge against Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand when she was tapped by Gov. David Paterson to fill Hillary Clinton's seat. He raised eyebrows when he called her "xenophobic" in a press release and has said he still considers her a work in progress as far as immigration issues are concerned.

This is an interesting endorsement for a few reasons, not the least of which is the fact that it demonstrates whoever put together the deal back in the day to get then-mayoral contender Adolfo Carrion to drop into the comptroller's race to avoid a split between the African-American and Hispanic communities knew what he was doing.

(Of course, it's all moot now that Carrion isn't even in the picture, politically speaking, in New York).

Also, for what it's worth, Rivera is closely allied with Assemblyman Jose Rivera, the deposed boss of the Bronx Democratic Party, and has acted as Rivera's unofficial spokesman in connection with the legal challenge to the decision that awarded control of the organization to Assemblyman Carl Heastie.

A Brief Senate Love Fest

April 2, 2009

On the Senate floor this morning, Majority Leader Malcolm Smith and Minority Leader Dean Skelos put their partisanship aside for a moment of mutual admiration, praising one another for the deal struck to allow Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson to vote on budget deals.

"I want to express my appreciation to Sen. Skelos and to all my colleagues," Smith said. "This is a day that I think the 19 million people of New York have come to recognize this is a fine chamber, irrespective of all that the papers have written, the editorial boards have said."

"Today we have proven to all of New York that we are a distinguished body that we are also a body that has a heart and understands the challenges that face this state and we rise above that."

Smith said Skelos had been "extremely heartfelt" and "very concerned" about Hassell-Thompson," and urged senators on both sides of the aisle to recall that, "notwithstanding our beliefs, and interests, we are all colleagues."

Skelos went even further, saying:

"Ruth, we welcome you back. We know it's going to be just for a few minutes now, but we ask God to give you a speedy recovery because in the Senate we are one family, we may have our disagreements, but we all respect each other, we all love each other and we pray together that you have a speedy recovery and that you join the debate and the process that we have here in the Senate."

She Came, She Voted, She Left

April 2, 2009

The ailing Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson was wheeled into the Senate not long ago, cast "yes" votes on all the remaining budget bills and then departed, breaking the logjam that has kept the 2009-2010 spending plan in limbo for the past two days.

This was achieved through an agreement brokered between Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith and Senate Minority Leader Dean Skelos known as "unanimous consent," which kept the roll for all the bills open so Hassell-Thompson's votes would be counted even though she won't physically be in the chamber to cast them.

The Buffalo News' Tom Precious reported this morning that this was under consideration and also quoted an unnamed Senate lawyer who called the move "unprecedented."

Writes Precious:

Senate Republicans said Democrats at first asked if they could provide any GOP votes to get at least the one bill passed that was being debated at the time Hassell-Thompson was taken back to the hospital. The idea was rejected. Next, Senate GOP sources said, the Democrats asked if a video hookup could be set up between the hospital and the Senate floor to permit her to vote. That idea, said to be illegal, also was rejected.

Despite the deal reached on Hassell-Thompson, Smith spokesman Austin Shafran said the majority doesn't expect to finish voting on the budget today.

So far, the Senate has voted on only two of the nine budget bills.

After complaining bitterly about being left out of the negotiation process, the Republicans are dragging out the debate, hammering their Democratic counterparts and generally trying to exploit the fact that the new members of the majority aren't as well-versed in floor debates as their seasoned GOP counterparts.

Shafran noted that the Democrats have allowed the debating to continue well past the two-hour mark, where the majority could, if it so desire, cut things off, letting the verbal sparring drag on three, four and sometimes even five hours per bill.

If this keeps up, the Senate might end up calling it quits for the week after it adjourns this evening. Or, it might return tomorrow. It's still up in the air.

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