New York Voters Weary Of State Senate Chaos

Chaos continues in New York's state government, ever since Republicans and two dissident Democrats tried to take control of the state Senate on June 8. Bills that need passing are in limbo, and control of New York City's schools passed from the mayor to a hastily appointed Board of Education, when a June 30 deadline passed.

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Chaos or gridlock, it's hard to tell which better describes the situation in, at least, two major state legislatures: California's and New York's. More on the Golden State in a moment, but first to Albany, where pending legislation is in limbo ever since Republicans and two dissident Democrats tried to take control of the State Senate on June 8th.

Here's NPR's Margot Adler on how it all began and what New Yorkers make of it.

MARGOT ADLER: It started weeks ago with a Republican coup. Two Democrats defected to the other party. One later came back to the fold. The result: A 31-to-31 stalemate in the State Senate. No one knows who is in charge.

New York's governor, David Paterson, is considered weak. Only 21 percent of New Yorkers think he's doing a good job. Paterson demanded the senators meet, even on weekends and holidays, but no pending legislation has yet been passed. Republican senators went to court.

Meanwhile, 84 percent of registered voters told a Marist poll this was simply a power play. On the sidewalk in front of Zabar's, New York's famed gourmet food store, Paul Rubenstein(ph) was philosophical.

Mr. PAUL RUBENSTEIN: I think that those people are absolutely irresponsible for the way they're behaving, but on the other hand, I don't think that the New York State Constitution has any solution to address a tie in the Senate. So I haven't got an intelligent suggestion of how to fix it because the fix doesn't exist.

ADLER: But most people just threw up their hands. The voices of New Yorkers Don Yeats(ph), Rosemary Erickson(ph) and Phyllis Gates(ph).

Mr. DON YEATS: Oh, those people are idiots. They are just idiots.

Ms. ROSEMARY ERICKSON: I can't believe that adults are doing what you wouldn't even expect of children.

Ms. PHYLLIS GATES: What could one possibly say? It's insane.

ADLER: Undisciplined and tribal were the words from another woman. Voters are clearly disgusted. And while this may seem an arcane matter, pollsters found that 75 percent of registered voters in New York knew a good deal about the current crisis, and most said they didn't think their elected officials have their interests at heart. Seven in 10 voters said they were angry, and this was almost equal among Democrats, Republicans and Independents.

Meanwhile, the stalemate continues, and it's beginning to cost the taxpayers. Apparently, expenses for the senators to stay in Albany and do nothing are already approaching $100,000.

Margot Adler, NPR News, New York.

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