NEW UPDATE: Gov. Appoints A Lieutenant Gov; Court Fight Likely

And the winner of the Lieutenant Governor sweepstakes is:

Richard Ravitch, the former head of the Metropolitan Transit Agency in NYC, who saved it from severe money troubles.

Here he is, in a photo from the state website. He’s on the left:

<br />Richard Ravitch in a photo courtesy of
Richard Ravitch in a photo courtesy of


The battle for control of the State Senate, and the fight to get the Senate to do something, may be coming to a head.

Several developments:

  • Governor David Paterson holds a 5:00 p.m. televised address today. It’s titled and “Address on the Current Senate Stalemate and its Impact on all New Yorkers”. The title does not indicate whether he’s ready to gamble on naming a Lieutenant Governor, under a novel interpretation of the State Constitution that the Attorney General doesn’t think is legal. A Lieutenant Governor would be able to break tie votes in the Senate, which, not coincidentally, is tied at 31 votes per party at the moment;
  • Four downstate Hispanic Democrats, who call themselves the Four Amigos and have threatened to break away from the Democratic party over certain issues, are trying to use their leverage as a bloc of votes to break the stalemate. They, and a fifth Hispanic Democrat, have been discussing plans over meals lately. They say they won’t let the leadership crisis go past Thursday, even if it means they leave to vote with the Republicans to give them a decisive majority. Three of the four showed up for the start of yesterday’s Senate session run by their party, but walked out right after it began as a way of making their point.
  • The pressure is forcing both sides to try to make a deal. The Republicans released what they say is a 50/50 leadership plan to get the Senate back to work, and some Democrats, including local Senator Darrel Aubertine, released their own plan for sharing power. The plans differ in who gets to run the Senate. Republicans want their guy, side-switching under-investigation Democrat Pedro Espada while Democrats would rotate D’s and R’s equally.
  • And it’s worth noting that this dispute may be a huge headache for most of us, but it’s a nifty payday for some well-connected lawyers.

The Senate has a host of important measures bottled up by this standoff.  Among them are the state’s Power For Jobs economic development program, which gives industries breaks on their big power bills in exchange for moving or staying here, and sales tax extensions for Oswego County and the city of Oswego.

Today should be payday for State Senators, but the State Comtroller is holding their checks till they do some of the public’s work.


A statement on the Democrats’ leadership plan, just received, from Aubertine:

Statement from Sen. Darrel J. Aubertine Regarding Bipartisan Power Sharing Agreement to End Stalemate

ALBANY (July 8, 2009)—“The proposal that my colleagues and I have put together is one that will help us put politics behind us. I have shared it with members of the other conference and my own conference, and there seems to be a willingness to move in this direction. The reality is that for the working families and taxpayers of this state, who’s holding the gavel is of little concern. What is on their minds is seeing us move forward in a nonpartisan way.

“Regardless of whether or not the Governor decides he will appoint a lieutenant governor, we need an agreement like this in place. This shared power agreement empowers the rank and file members to do their job without the interference of partisan politics. This proposal would free the individual members from the partisan gridlock that has gotten us here.

“Throughout this stalemate, I’ve been working with members of both conferences to iron out a solution and taken action to ensure important legislation is signed into law. I remain optimistic that a solution is around the corner.”

UPDATE 2, 2:30 P.M.

Both the Albany Times-Union and New York Daily News believe Paterson will name a Lieutenant Governor during his 5 p.m. address. (The Daily News hedges a bit, speculating that Paterson may just threaten to do so if there’s no solution to the gridlock in a matter of days.)

Perhaps a bit of information is useful here.  The Lieutenant Governor’s post has been vacant since Paterson rose to the Governor’s slot with the resignation-in-disgrace of Eliot Spitzer.  Republicans controlled the Senate then and said they would not allow Paterson to appoint a Lieutenant Governor (who is the acting Governor when the Governor is out of state or unable to work).  That’s more-or-less routine politics — the R’s didn’t want the minority D’s to have a tie-breaking vote in the Senate.

But when the Dems took over, they didn’t fill the slot, either.  The chilly relations between Paterson and then-Democratic leader Malcolm Smith may have played a part there.

Some good government groups and a couple of politicians think that the Constitutiion allows the Governor to fill any vacant slot that isn’t mentioned elsewhere.  Attorney General Andrew Cuomo disagrees, and could sue to block it.  Certainly, Republicans will.  “Absolutely wrong,” said the leader of Republicans in the Senate.

Who will Paterson appoint?

Albany insiders center their speculation on three names:  Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi, who ran for state office previously; retired State Court of Appeals Chief Judge Judith Kaye and soon-to-depart Mayor of Syracuse Matt Driscoll.  The Times-Union says Kaye is out and Suozzi appears to be out.