Klein And Skelos: We Have A Very Diverse State
Without diving into specifics, Sens. Jeff Klein and Dean Skelos told reporters in Queens today they would address the concerns raised by black and Latino groups that their power-sharing agreement essentially shuts out minority lawmakers.
Klein left the door to non-IDC Democrats — especially black and Latino lawmakers — receiving committee posts and other leadership assignments, though he stressed that no decisions have been made.
“We’re going to take a good hard look as to how we’ll bring issues to bare that effect all communities in the state of New York. We have a very diverse state and I think it’s important for us to address the issues that effect all New Yorkers and if committee chairmanships is one of them, we’ll address it.”
The coalition agreement with the five-member Independent Democratic Conference allows Republicans to keep some power in the chamber, despite losing their majority in the Senate this election cycle.
The Republican conference is exclusively white and the IDC recently added Sen. Malcolm Smith to its ranks, the first black majority leader of the Senate who lost that role in the 2009 leadership coup. But the move would limit the role of Senate Democrats whose leader, John Sampson, is black.
On Saturday, black lawmakers and the Rev. Al Sharpton held a rally highlighting the often raw racial politics of the chamber, with Sharpton pledging to hold demonstrations in some of the IDC members’ districts.
The news conference today in Queens was held at the formation of the first IDC-GOP project: A bipartisan panel to deal with recovery and relief efforts from Hurricane Sandy. Included on the panel is Sen. Joe Addabbo, a mainline Democrat, and Sen.-elect James Sanders, another Democrat who will replace Sen. Shirley Huntley.
It was the first event the coalition and Skelos held since announcing the agreement last week and the first event with Smith since he joined the IDC.
Klein said the concern from community groups and minorities aren’t just about leadership roles, but making sure their issues are dealt with as well.
“It’s not only about committee chairs,” he said. ”It’s about issues that effect all New Yorkers. That’s the important thing and those are some of things that I think we’re going to take a good hard look to address.”
Part of Klein’s argument for the IDC and GOP alliance has been the ability for progressive legislation — such as a minimum wage increase — to the come to the floor for a vote. It remains to be seen if Republicans would allow the measure on the floor, or if the IDC would need some Democratic votes in order for provisions backed by liberals could pass.
Skelos, who faces renewed pressure from Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long, wouldn’t say if he supports or opposes some of the agenda items that Gov. Andrew Cuomo laid out as conditions for supporting senators. However, he did say things will work out legislatively.
“There are issues that are brought to a vote that nobody in the world thought could happen,” Skelos said. ”We’ve shown we can govern. We’ve learned from the past as to what we should do to avoid dysfunction. I know that all of us here … I have looked each other in the eye and said we’re going to make this work.”
Smith, meanwhile, wasn’t in much of a mood to discuss the issue, pivoting back to Sandy relief efforts.
“Maybe there’s a time for your question, but I have people here whose lives are literally are hurting and that’s why we’re standing here,” he said.
Later when NY1′s Zack Fink talked to Smith, he expanded a little on the concerns from black community leaders.
“I think everybody should just relax for a moment,” he said. ”Just give it an opportunity for this to move forward. And if their concerns come to fruition then we should look at it again.”
|Print article||This entry was posted by Nick Reisman on December 10, 2012 at 5:16 pm, and is filed under IDC, State Senate. Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.|