Niagara Gazette

Local News

January 9, 2013

Challenge for Senate: Sharing the power

Challenge for Senate: Sharing the power

Niagara Gazette — Amidst all the hopes for a better way to conduct state government in Albany, New York will take a unique step when the Legislature reconvenes today. 

It may be the only state in the nation where the government has increased in size, with an additional seat in the Senate, the result of redistricting plan approved in 2012. The upper house now has 63 members.

“So much for smaller government,” one veteran legislator quipped last week as he prepared to return to Capitol Hill for the new session.

The most significant change confronting lawmakers is in the Senate where, based on the latest figures, the Republicans will have 32 members, the Democrats, 26, and the Independent Democratic Conference, a breakaway faction, 5. The IDC led by Sen. Jeffrey D. Klein of the Bronx, has been pushing for what he envisions as a “bipartisan coalition,” comprised of the five renegades and the Senate GOP caucus, to control the Senate.

Three area lawmakers reflected last week on the upcoming agenda and what they consider as vital issues for 2013.

Sen. George D. Maziarz, R-Newfane, has adopted a wait-and-see attitude on the impact the breakaway Democrats will have on the Senate and its ability to function efficiently. The senator is quick to note that he is not in total agreement with everything the IDC seems to be pushing. He said earlier, though, that the move toward a three-conference Senate could mean — unlike in recent years — more bills could reach the floor for discussion. 

And there are valid concerns whether the so-called gridlock atmosphere could return to the Legislature, especially if Klein insists that the Senate rules be changed so that the IDC would have “equal authority over everything.”

As for the agenda, Maziarz cited the ongoing battle to secure more relief from state-mandated costs to communities. Many local government officials are frustrated with the lack of any strategy to ease the financial burden on counties for those mandated programs and services. Yet those programs tend to have “constituencies” with a vested interest in prolonging their existence.

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