The New York State Senate has been controlled by the Republican Party since 1939 (with the exception of a very brief period in 1965), and the New York State Assembly has been under Democratic control since 1975 (actually, for all but five years since 1959). Republican control of the New York State Senate allows progressive policies supported by a majority of New Yorkers to be blocked by the State Senate. Support that Manhattan needs in Albany is often unavailable because of the inability of pro-Manhattan Democrats to gain the support of the Republican-controlled and anti-Manhattan New York State Senate.
This November, Queens voters will play a large roll in determining whether Republican Control continues or whether 70 years of frustration finally comes to an end for New York Democrats.
Background - Most Dysfunctional Legislature in the US
In 2004, the Brennan Center for Justice studied the procedures of each legislature in the United States and determined that New York State has the most dysfunctional legislature. http://brennan.3cdn.net/1f4d5e4fa546eaa9cd_fxm6iyde5.pdf
Much of the change that is necessary in the New York State legislature is blocked by the Senate, and the divided legislature has long had an equilibrium that permits both parties and both houses of the legislature to avoid dealing with the dysfunction. Manhattan Viewpoint will examine the failings of the New York State legislature and the potential cures for their diseases in a future blog entry. For now, we must focus on the need to put the New York State legislature under Democratic control and on the need to hold the Democrats accountable for fixing the legislature once they have control.
The nearly 70 years of Republican control over the New York State Senate have institutionalized processes and procedures that make the minority party in the Senate virtually irrelevant in terms of legislation and oversight. The majority party in the State Senate has undermined efforts to protect Manhattan from the theft of its resources by other municipalities. http://manhattanviewpoint.blogspot.com/2008/08/stealing-from-manhattan.html They have blocked the taxation by NYC of those that work in NYC but live elsewhere. They have adopted formulae that shift the educational resources of the state to high income suburban communities and away from the big cities. They have attempted to attack women's reproductive rights, and they have (among other things) blocked the repeal of the Rockefeller Drug Laws, which incarcerate low level, non-violent offenders for unconscionably long periods of time.
So Close and Yet So Far
Today, the margin of the Republican majority in the New York State Senate is only two seats. The Republicans have 31 seats, and the Democrats have 29 seats. In what promises to be a strong year for Democrats in 2008, there are 9 or 10 seats that are competitive, yet the latest polls suggest that, if the election were held today, the Republicans would maintain their majority. http://www.nydailynews.com/news/2008/10/08/2008-10-08_poll_democrats_wont_seize_control_of_new.html
If the legislature ends up with an equal number of Democrats and Republicans, the Republicans will maintain their control because they hold the tie breaking vote (the Lt. Governor would hold the tie breaking vote, but New York State has no Lt. Governor right now; the Senator Majority Leader (a Republican) is the Acting Lt. Governor and would decide who controls the Senate if the Senate were equally divided). Therefore, the Democrats need to win three seats to start the process of fixing Albany. One seat that is hotly contested and ripe for a change from Republican to Democrat is the Queens seat currently held by Serphin Maltese, who is being challenged by Democratic City Council Member Joseph Addabbo. Without an Addabbo victory, one is challenged to envision a scenario that results in Democratic control of the New York State Senate.
Addabbo, the son of a celebrated former U.S. Congressman and an accomplished member of the City Council himself, is more than prepared to contribute to improving the lives of those of us who live in Manhattan. In the New York State Senate, he will have even greater opportunity to make a difference for his Queens constituents as well as for New York State residence more generally. On all of key issues, Addabbo's positions are consistent with the views expressed by Manhattan Viewpoint. Addabbo wants to reform Albany, promote affordable housing, strengthen education, and protect women's rights. http://www.addabboforsenate.com/issues
Rudy Giuliani is supporting Maltese. http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/queens/2008/09/20/2008-09-20_queens_state_sen_serphin_maltese_has_rud.html For that reason alone, Manhattanites should be motivated to encourage their friends in Queens to vote for, volunteer for, and contribute to Joe Addabbo. To add insult to injury, Maltese (who won his last election by only 600 votes) has seen his office infected by a child pornography scandal. http://www.nydailynews.com/news/ny_crime/2008/10/17/2008-10-17_new_york_state_senate_charged_with_recei.html
With that backdrop, Manhattan Viewpoint urges the election of Joe Addabbo - a crucial ingredient of the progress we need for Queens and for Manhattan as well as for all of New York State.