The Rise Of SkleinosFrom the Capital Tonight morning memo, which you can subscribe to in the field on the right-hand side of the blog:
State governments are said to be the laboratories of democracy. In about a month, Albany will be the site of a rather ambitious experiment in a critical year for New York state government.
As watchers of state government know by now, five dissident Democratic senators announced a coalition government with Republicans in the state Senate in an unprecedented power-sharing agreement.
In theory, the coalition spreads the power around in the chamber.
There won’t be a “majority leader” but a rotating Senate presidency shared by Sen. Jeff Klein and Sen. Dean Skelos, who will both have a seat at the budget bargaining table.
In a series of interviews to the Albany press corps late Tuesday afternoon, Klein stressed that the best way to get a raft of “progressive” issues accomplished such as a minimum wage increase and stop and frisk reform for New York City is by putting a coalition government in place.
We’ll hear more later today when Klein and his fellow IDCers — that’s right, all five of them — sit down in an interview with Liz Benjamin on Capital Tonight in an interview that airs at 8 and 11:30.
And later this morning, Skelos will put in an appearance on Susan Arbetter’s Capitol Pressroom radio show. Among the key questions: Why strike the deal now with the IDC when two Senate races in the SD-46 and SD-41 remain unresolved?
We’ll also be getting more reaction from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whose spokesman Josh Vlasto issued a statement suggesting the governor wants to steer clear and reserve judgment on the coalition at a later date.
Business groups chimed in the same afternoon, announcing they were somewhat optimistic the move would be good for them.
Not reserving judgment this morning: the Senate Democrats.
The frustration for the conference is palpable. After all, the IDC is now composed of both Klein and former Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith, who presided over a dysfunctional chamber from 2009 through 2011.
The current Senate Democratic conference, meanwhile, is being front loaded with lawmakers who weren’t around during those bad times.
Democrats on Tuesday were out of the gate quickly to call the new coalition nothing more than yet another leadership coup in Albany that ignored the will of the voters.
Klein denies this, of course, noting that the coup of 2009 was done a band of unserious people not actually interesting in governing.
The main fear from liberals is that all those progressive goals will get watered down by a Senate majority coalition. It’s not inconceivable to see a deal on, say, minimum wage that some Senate Republicans could potentially vote for, but doesn’t go far enough for the non-IDC Democrats.
All of this comes as the state grapples with very real and substantive issues, including whether to allow hydrofracking and the still undetermined impact of Hurricane Sandy on the budget deficit.
Next year was already shaping up to be one of complexities and nuances. The majority coalition won’t simplify things by a long shot. It will require deal making and bargaining to go into hyperdrive
As Bruce Gyory told Liz on the show last night, coalitions are usually much easier to form than actually governing.
This new plan is being compared to a parliament similar to what we see in Britain or Israel. But the difference is the governor can’t dissolve the Legislature and call for new elections when the coalition fails. If things fall apart quickly, we’ve got this Brave New World until January 2015. Two years is a long time.
There is also a very low threshold for errors. Call it massively unfair, but any slip up by the nascent coalition will be scrutinized under a microscope and, perhaps prematurely, lead the coalition’s detractors to declare the whole experiment a failure.
The tight rope everyone will be walking next year — from Cuomo, to Skleinos and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver — will be quite narrow.