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Skelos: Newfangled Senate coalition 'will show the rest of the country'

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos during a press

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos during a press conference where Councilman Eric Ulrich, right, got the endorsement of Plumbers Local No.1 and Steamfitters Local 638. (July 26, 2012) Photo Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

ALBANY — Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos said Wednesday the power-sharing deal he cut with dissident Democrats to run the Senate will not only be good for the state but a model for the nation.

“We’re going to show the rest of the country that Republicans and Democrats can work together,” Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) said. “And I think the public is going to be very happy with the solutions we come up with.”

Skelos comments came one day after announcing that he and Sen. Jeff Klein (D-Bronx) will share control of the chamber in the upcoming 2013 legislative session. Under the arrangement, 30 Republicans and six Democrats will form a newly dubbed “Majority Senate Coalition,” and jointly decide what bills reach the Senate floor each day of the session, as well as committee assignments, and the power to make appointments to state and local boards.

They said they would also share negotiations over the state budget. Klein and Skelos will alternate the title of Senate president — a largely administrative title — every two weeks.

Their deal would leave the other Senate Democrats with, at most, 27 members — keeping them from controlling the chamber despite apparently winning a majority of seats on Election Day. One upstate race is still outstanding.

Skelos told Newsday the coalition would maintain the clout of Long Island’s all-Republican Senate delegation.

“This will be positive for Long Island, no doubt about it,” Skelos said.

Asked in a separate radio interview if the coalition was a type of “shotgun marriage,” Skelos laughed and said no.

“This is going to be a good marriage,” he said, “a marriage of trust.”

Klein leads a group of five Democrats that call themselves the Independent Democratic Conference. They will join the Skelos coalition along with Simcha Felder, who won election as a Democrat in Brooklyn but has said he’d join GOP conference.

The IDC, then with four members, broke off from other Democrats in January 2011. Over the last two years — when Republicans held a slim 32-30 edge in the Senate — occasionally voted with the GOP on key issues, such as the landmark property-tax cap.

“Our relationship began two years ago,” Skelos said. “We’re no strangers to working together. We’ve socialized together.”

Skelos said decisions about committee leadership posts haven’t been made yet. But he vowed the unusual partnership would work smoothly to notch achievements — unlike the federal government.

“The public, they don’t care about (political) parties,” Skelos said. “Election time is about parties. But now, they care about bipartisanship. They’re totally turned off by what’s happening in Washington.”


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