The recent decision by Tom Croci to return to active duty in the U.S. Navy left the State Senate evenly split — 31 votes apiece for Democrats and Republicans.
With neither side able to pass legislation on its own, no one sure whether the Sayville Republican would return or for how long, and the scheduled end of the legislative session looming on June 20, there seemed to be one logical solution: Both parties would have to put aside their differences, work on issues on which they could find common ground, and do the people’s business of passing bills that move the state forward.
But this is Albany, where raw political considerations, not sense of duty, always prevails.
After a brief interlude Monday when comity reigned and the Senate managed to pass more than 100 noncontroversial bills, the chamber devolved into stage-managed chaos Tuesday. Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, was present to exercise her rarely used power to preside over Senate sessions — and was greeted with a GOP effort to override a veto by her boss, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, of a Democratic bill to expand full-day kindergarten. It passed, 61-0, the first Senate override since 2006. Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport) then trolled Cuomo and Hochul: “We thank the Governor for sending his Lieutenant Governor to preside over this historic override.” The Assembly quickly said it wasn’t taking a companion override vote so that was the end of that.
It never got better. Democrats tried to attach hostile amendments to GOP legislation — like an abortion rights measure on a Lyme disease bill — while Republicans used parliamentary maneuvers to try to trip up Hochul. At one point, Flanagan asked her whether she had a copy of Senate rules. Mansplaining, Albany-style. Democrats said Republicans were trying to prove Democrats aren’t ready to run the chamber. Republicans said Democrats were trying to prove Republicans create dysfunction.
Croci deserves criticism for abdicating his responsibility as an elected official for the second time; he also returned to the Navy during his tenure as Islip Town supervisor. His dissatisfaction with Albany was well known, but he should have waited until the end of the session to leave. He promised he would return for votes but his entire absence is shrouded in needless uncertainty.
But the main blame goes to those who are there. In trying to show the other side incapable of good leadership, each makes the same case about itself. If you want to show you can get things done, try it.
The tension is clear — elections are in the fall, and Cuomo is lending his considerable muscle to an effort to return the Senate to Democratic control. In the meantime, there’s plenty of good legislation that needs action — from tweaks to Nassau County’s assessment law to a ban on offshore oil drilling in New York waters to the establishment of a program for safe disposal of pharmaceuticals to a measure to stop people considered a danger to themselves or others from buying or owning guns.
Stop trying to score political points and get back to business — the people’s business.