2012-12-07 / Top Stories

Smith Joins Breakaway Democrats

The state Senate's Republicans and a group of five breakaway Democrats, including State Senator Malcolm Smith, who has represented Rockaway for many years and will continue to do so until January, announced agreement on Tuesday that they're teaming up to run the chamber next year.

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos of Nassau County and and Senator Jeff Klein of the Bronx, the leaders of the newly-formed Independent Democratic Conference, announced a power-sharing arrangement that will make each man "conference leader" of his respective group.

The deal gives Skelos and Klein joint control over state budget negotiations for the Senate, what bills come to the Senate floor, leadership and committee assignments for their respective groups and appointments to state and local boards.

The two men will alternate every two weeks in the largely ceremonial position of temporary president of the Senate - which is second in line to succeed the governor after the lieutenant governor.

“All decisions on what bills come to the floor will be made jointly by Skelos and Klein after receiving input from members of the coalition,” said a Democratic insider who asked not to be identified.

The IDC also formally announced that Smith has joined the conference.

Smith will no longer represent Rockaway, replaced by Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr.

The fragile agreement leaves the Senate in a situation where neither the Democrats, the Republicans nor the new independent caucus will have the requisite number of votes to claim an outright majority pending the outcome of two upstate races where Democrats are currently in the lead and have claimed victory. A court will soon vote on those claims.

Republicans now control the Senate 33-29 but could be down to 30 seats in an expanded, 63-seat Senate next year. Brooklyn Democrat Simcha Felder has said he'll caucus with the GOP when he takes office in January.

"Having dedicated the past two years to a serious, policy-driven agenda, this agreement delivers on the IDC’s pledge to become a permanent third conference within the State Senate and to have a major voice in all policy decisions moving forward," Klein said.

"Senator Klein has proven to be a thoughtful and effective leader, and I look forward to partnering with him to move this state forward,” added Skelos.

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