Senate coup: controversy continues one day later

The State Senate power struggle down at the capitol in Albany continued on Tuesday. 24 hours earlier, Senate Republicans, along with and two Democrats, executed a power play right on the chamber floor. They took back the majority, kicked Malcolm Smith out as leader and replaced him with a coalition of Dean Skelos (R) and Pedro Espada, Jr. (D).

Senator Espada vows to reopen the Senate Wednesday, even if he has to hold the session outside in a park if Democrats will not surrender the keys to the chamber.

When asked if was expecting Malcolm Smith to bring legal action against him, Espada told NEWS10, “I'm not expecting anything except preparing now for a 3:00pm (State Senate) session.”

Espada was chosen President Pro Tem of the Senate, the next in line to Governor Paterson, in a super-secret coup Monday that caught his fellow Democratic senators asleep at the switch.

Democrats stormed from the chamber and then turned out the lights in the building.

Majority Leader Malcolm Smith was voted out and Republican Dean Skelos regained the job he previously held from June of last year to January 2009. The new coalition then passed a package of reforms to open up the legislative process.

NEWS10's John McLoughlin asked Dean Skelos where these reforms were when he was Senate Majority Leader the first time.

“Well, the bottom line is the past is the past, this is about the future,” he responded.

Adding an extra bit of controversy, Espada owes the state unpaid fines for campaign violations.

The other renegade Democrat from Monday's coup, Senator Hiram Monserrate, is under indictment for allegedly slashing his girlfriend in the face with a bottle.

Monserrate addressed that issue Tuesday, saying, “Everyone in America is afforded the presumption of innocence. I have explained myself and innocence and my girlfriend has talked about my innocence and that's really an issue that's personal that has nothing to do with my functions in the New York State Senate

Capitol insider and Former Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno also had something to say about the coup. He says the Democrats, especially Malcolm Smith, have no one to blame but themselves. Bruno added that the new coalition was sick and tired of the air of secrecy in the Capitol.

He said Monday's vote was perfectly legal and that the way the Democrats reacted to it was nothing less than comical.

“As soon as Senator Libous asked for a quorum call, they ran out of the room and panicked,” Bruno told NEWS10, “That is almost comical; and these are the people who are trying to govern? They turn off the lights and try to run out of the chamber?”

Bruno does agree that this will likely cripple state government for a while, but he is confident any judge who decides upon the matter will find in favor of the Republicans.

Outside the Capitol, demonstrators protested the coup. Among their targets was Tom Golisano, the mega-rich businessman who bankrolled the takeover. Golisano spent millions of his own money thrice running for New York Governor before helping Democrats to gain control of the Senate last fall.

Despite having recently moved to Florida to avoid New York Taxes, Golisano says he'll be watching the coalition of Republican Dean Skelos and Democrat Pedro Espada to prevent another budget like this years with $8 billion in new taxes.

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