Monday, January 31, 2011

Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy's power limited by GOP

By Carlos González

Hon. Robert Duffy

ALBANY - Senate Republicans just passed a resolution amending Senate rules set to expire on February 1, 2010. The vote was 36 to 24. The resolution strips Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy from casting a vote for temporary leader of the Senate in the event of a 31-31 tie.

"We believe a duly elected majority of the Senate should choose its temporary president," said Senate Republican spokesman Scott Reif.

This issue appears to be of critical nature due to aging Republicans who might retire prior to an end of their term. Under the new rules, Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Nassau) could not be replaced as the temporary president until 32 elected members of the Senate vote.

If legal, the new rule puts Democrats at an extreme disadvantage, whereas any changes to the rules will require recapturing two seats lost by the Democrats.

During the debate, Senator Ruben Diaz (D-Bronx) reminded Deputy Majority Leader Tom Libous
(R-Binghampton) that the chamber currently has 31 Democrats and 31 Republicans, not 32 Republicans as Libous continuously indicated.

Diaz' comments served as a very interesting reminder to the GOP that at any given time during the next two years, members who are actually registered Democrats may opt to return and caucus with the Democratic members.

Diaz added, "Right now, the GOP has the votes, so what's the rush to change the rules?"

While explaining his vote, Senator Thomas Duane (D-Manhattan) remarked, "Sadly, it has become clear to me that we have no shining examples of over the last two years, and no shining examples of what is happening now."

Meanwhile, Governor Cuomo disagreed with Senate Republicans.

The news was not well received by Duffy who intends to keep on voting regardless of the new rules.

Senate Democrats also asked for clarification from the AG to determine if the Republicans' effort to take away Duffy's tie-breaking leadership vote is legal.

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