It could be a grand experiment in how the New York State Senate operates. Can it be successfully run by coalition? Even when a recount determines who won a final seat in the Senate, Democrats and Republicans may still not be sure who controls a majority. All because of a group of four Senators, including Syracuse area Democrat David Valesky. YNN's Bill Carey says those four Senators may have the power to make the final call.
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NEW YORK -- It was more than two years ago when a group of four Democrats, unhappy with the direction of their conference, broke away and formed their own independent group. Now, with results from elections showing the State Senate split almost evenly, Democrat and Republican, the Independent Democratic Conference says the political landscape has changed.
“Three independent organizations - the Senate Democratic conference, the Independent Democratic conference and a Senate Republican conference - with the likelihood that no one conference has enough votes to govern in traditional majority fashion,” said Sen. David Valesky, (D) 49th State Senate District.
What Valesky and his colleagues in the IDC are talking about is coalition government, something not normally seen in the United States.
In most parliamentary systems, such as neighboring Canada, multiple parties must negotiate among themselves to assemble a governing majority. In the New York State Senate, Valesky believes that opens the door to a more balanced approach to state issues.
“I, for as long as I've been in office, have always believed that the best product that comes from government is one that is formed in bi-partisan cooperation. The State Senate, in this state, has been and, I think, will continue to be, for the next several years, very closely divided - Republicans, Democrats. That adds even more impetus to try to form some kind of coalition government where both political parties have an opportunity to participate in setting the agenda,” said Valesky.
Democrats, who've spent millions hoping to finally retake the majority in the Senate, now may be stymied by members of their own party. That's led to protests by groups demanding the IDC members return to the fold.
“If you believe what the Republican caucus believes, then you should have run as a Republican. But, sir, you did not,” said Mike Patterson, Citizen Action.
“We remain Democrats. We're registered Democrats. We received the endorsements from our respective Democratic county committees, with full knowledge that we are Independent Democrats. And we elected that way. My first responsibility is not to a political party. It's to the people of this state,” said Valesky.
Valesky talks of an experiment. An experiment that remains in its very early stages.
Senator Valesky says talks are underway on needed changes in Senate rules to allow for three separate conferences to share power. The State Senate is due to go back into session on January 9th.