In a stunning and rapid series of events yesterday, the majority in the NYS Senate shifted back to the GOP after Democratic Senators Pedro Espada (Bronx) and Hiram Monserrate (Corona) joined the GOP in a vote to oust Majority Leader Malcolm Smith.
The genesis of this coup began months ago when Smith was named Majority Leader with a lot of help from Rochester billionaire Tom Golisano the titular head of the state Independence Party. Golisano quickly became disenchanted with the new majority when the new state budget significantly increased taxes on upper incomes. His next move was to lobby for shared non-partisan leadership in the Senate.
The two defecting Senators were interesting choices, considering one is currently under indictment for a domestic violence charge and the other is being investigated for living outside his district and failing to file campaign finance reports. If the former is convicted and removed from office the the GOP and Democratic Party will essentially be tied in the State Senate. If the investigation results in further legal action for the other the majority could swing back to the Democrats by a single vote.
As of today the NYS Senate Majority Leadership has been recaptured by Republican Dean Skelos of Rockville Center, while Democrat Pedro Espada has been named President Pro Tem of the state Senate, the second most powerful position today due to the absence of a Lt. Governor.
It is anticipated that a series of law suits will be filed by this afternoon nullifying or at the least suspending yesterdays actions so no additional changes in powerful committee leadership positions can be made.