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New York Legislature in Gridlock as Democratic Defections Give Republicans Senate Control

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Democracy Now! co-host Juan Gonzalez analyzes the Republican takeover of the New York State Senate following the surprise defection of two Democratic lawmakers. The political upheaval has held up legislation on issues affecting millions of New Yorkers, including gay marriage, rent controls and mayoral control of New York City’s schools. [includes rush transcript]

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Juan, you had an interesting column in the New York Daily News about New York politics in the Capitol in Albany, a big shift.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Yeah. We have a major problem now in Albany. In the State Capitol, there’s total paralysis, as all this week there’s been paralysis, because on Monday afternoon, the Democrats, who have a slim majority in the State Senate for the first time in forty years, a 32-30 majority, were suddenly shocked to find out that two of their members, two Democratic senators from New York City, had switched sides and gone with the Republicans to elect a Republican majority leader.

It caught the Democrats completely by surprise, so much so that they ended up in the middle of this sudden vote turning off the lights, pulling the television feed to the State Senate, and attempting to lock the Republicans out of the Senate chamber, because the Democratic majority leader is claiming that he’s still the majority leader.

And now, it’s not quite clear where this is going, but it is clear that major legislation that affects millions of New Yorkers is now on hold, including a proposed bill around gay marriage, legislation that must be reauthorized for rent controls or rent regulations for hundreds of thousands of New York City tenants, and also mayoral control of the schools. All this is on hold now, because these two legislators, Hiram Monserrate and Pedro Espada, have switched sides and are now voting with the Republicans.

AMY GOODMAN: And they are also under clouds, these two Democrats.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, both are under heavy clouds. Espada is notorious. In the past, he’s been often investigated, was indicted once but acquitted on charges of misusing campaign funds. And Hiram Monserrate is right now under indictment. He’s a former police officer, actually a very progressive politician. He was on the board of the New York Civil Liberties Union for many years. But apparently he was indicted — arrested and indicted for assaulting his girlfriend just a few months ago and is about to stand trial. So if he’s convicted of that, he would end up losing his seat. And no one knows what would happen then to the Republican or the Democratic majority.

AMY GOODMAN: And this is all under Governor David Paterson.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Right, who seems pretty unable to do anything about this situation right now. And I think that we’ll find out today — I think the Republicans will attempt to hold a session as the new majority, and the Democrats will be going to court to try to prevent them from having that session this afternoon.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we’ll continue to follow those details.

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