New York's Legislature Grinds To A Halt

In New York's capital Albany, Republicans and Democrats disagree over who is in charge. Three weeks ago, Republicans tried to take over the Senate. That's left neither side with a majority, and no bills are getting passed. Gov. David Patterson has ordered legislators to work over the holiday weekend to try to resolve the crisis.

ROBERT SMITH: And I'm Robert Smith in New York, where the State Senate couldn't get its act together to issue IOUs, even if it wanted to. They still can't agree on who's in charge in Albany and not a thing is getting passed.

Three weeks ago, when this mess started, people thought it was kind of a joke. The Republicans tried to takeover the state Senate and left neither side with a majority. But nobody's laughing now. The gridlock caused the Senate to miss a deadline to help New York City raise its sales tax.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Mayor MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (Republican, New York): We have a hole of at least $60 million created yesterday. We are getting to the point where, make no mistake about it, any less revenues mean fewer employees.

SMITH: The state Senate debacle has busted budgets around the state. Nassau County on Long Island needs a bonding bill passed to save 900 government jobs. But every day, Albany sets a new low in government dysfunction. For instance, on Tuesday the Democrats tried to hold their own session, even though they don't have enough votes to pass anything.

Then a stray Republican walked through the chamber to go get a Coke from the Senate lounge. The Democrats counted him as present and proceeded to speed-read bills into law.

Unidentified Woman: Call the roll.

Unidentified Man: Adams, Klein, Kruger(ph), Skellis(ph), Smith, Young.

Unidentified Woman: Announce the results.

Unidentified Man: Ayes, 32.

Unidentified Man: The bill is passed.

SMITH: New York Governor David Paterson says he won't sign the bills. Counting a thirsty Republican as a vote is of questionable legality. Paterson can't make the senators cooperate, but legally he can make them show up for work. So he's decided to ruin their holiday.

Governor DAVID PATERSON (Democrat, New York): Yes, the legislators are spending the July 4th weekend in Albany, hopefully resolving this conflict.

SMITH: How's that for fireworks?

Robert Smith, NPR News, New York.

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