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Long IslandPoliticsSpin Cycle

The state Senate 'coalition': Five myths

Rule of the state Senate is at stake.

Rule of the state Senate is at stake. Credit: AP

From unusual circumstances spring myths, and the case is no different for the new "coalition" agreement to run the state Senate. Reading the coverage, it is easy to come away with misimpressions, such as:

Political parties fight for every office.

No. In Suffolk, for example, Democratic officials even spoke openly of their co-partisans having proven themselves incapable of running the Senate. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, de facto party leader, exchanged repeated and extended kudos with Majority Leader Dean Skelos & Co. during this past campaign year.

This deal is precedent-shattering.

Well, Skelos' conference in 2009 proclaimed the same kind of "power sharing" in its famous procedural coup -- that is, they'd run the Senate in tandem with needed Democrats. This time, it seems more orderly and less shaky -- so far.

Senate Democrats in the majority in 2009 and 2010 drove Albany's dysfunction.

Corruption and folly stained their one-term tenure, but don't forget that scandal also enveloped Govs. Eliot Spitzer and David A. Paterson, Comptroller Alan Hevesi and former GOP Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno. Also, some big changes passed the Senate, including a cheaper Tier 5 public employee pension, Rockefeller drug law reform and hundreds of millions of dollars in budget cuts.

Power relationships are purely personal.

Geographic and ethnic considerations figure, too. A majority of the Senate Democrats are from New York City, with nearly half of the conference black or Latino.

Five of the six "breakaway" Democrats are white lawmakers from areas where sympathizing with the GOP is far from unheard of. The sixth, Sen. Malcolm A. Smith (D-Jamaica), the first black majority leader, was bumped aside in the turmoil prompted by the 2009 coup and does not owe Sampson.

Cuomo's purported presidential chances are in play.

Actually, his re-election would have to come first, in 2014, which falls during this upcoming legislative term. Cuomo will be looking for "progressive" victories -- but also to protect his GOP-approved fiscal measures. Does this coalition give him the maneuvering room he seeks? We'll see.

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