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NY State Sen. Betty Little (file photo). Photo: Mark Kurtz
NY State Sen. Betty Little (file photo). Photo: Mark Kurtz

Little says Senate power-sharing deal spared NY chaos

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Behind-the-scenes political maneuvering in Albany has produced a new kind of power-sharing coalition never before seen in New York state.

Brian Mann caught up with North Country state Senator Betty Little Tuesday, just a few minutes after the deal was unveiled.

The Republican from Queensbury says the deal grew out of growing collaboration in recent years between lawmakers in her party and a small group of independent Democrats.

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Brian Mann
Adirondack Bureau Chief

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With this particular conference, we've had a good working relationship, and we've developed trust and communication, and so I think even though this collaboration is unprecedented, it is a power sharing agreement and it's based upon having worked together, having trust in each other, communication, and I think that it will work.

Talk a little bit about how you see this affecting your ability to function in terms of committee assignments, in terms of being able to get bills to the floor, that kind of thing. Is it essentially unchanged, will you also now also have to consult with these independent Democrats to move forward with things, how will that work?

I don't know all the details of how they plan on working this out, but I don't think that it will change my position. The big change is in the idea that the Senate President will change every two weeks from one conference to the other. That should be able to work as well.

The saying is elections have consequences—the Democrats did very well in this last election cycle, and yet we're emerging with a situation here where there's not a clear Democratic majority even though there is a majority of state Senators who are in the Democratic Party. Is there any concern there?

I don't think so—I think people still recall the two years we had that were so chaotic and really, we were kind of the laughingstock of the country, in many ways, what was taking place here in the Senate…because things were just not functioning well at all.

My approach has always been that Election Day ends at midnight and you work with whoever has been elected because that's the person that those voters, our constituents, the people in those districts, have wanted to represent them. That's who won the majority and you have to work together, and I think this is just a manifestation of that.

When the Democrats did briefly control the state Senate, a lot of things happened very quickly and some of them painful for the North Country, closure of prisons, that kind of thing. Do you think we sort of dodged that kind of bullet with that sort of agreement here today?

Yes, I do. And the Independent Conference—Sen. [Jeffrey] Klein is from New York City, Sen. [Diane] Sevino from Staten Island, Sen. [David] Valesky is from Syracuse, and Sen. [David] Carlucci is from the Hudson Valley. They've been joined today by Sen. Malcolm Smith, who's also from New York City.

But those two years, it was like everyone in control, from the governor, lieutenant governor, comptroller, everyone, was form the New York City metropolitan area. And it seemed as though if it wasn't good for New York City it wasn't a good idea. And I think putting these two groups together will work very well.

Let me ask a final question about the role of Andrew Cuomo in all this. He seemed to signal that the was comfortable with this not emerging as a Democratic majority, he definitely played sort of a background role here, do you think he influenced this outcome and do you think this is one that will allow the Senate to continue working closely with him.

Well I have no idea what went on, but I think that he also is coming off an experience of two years where everyone did work well together, and I think that we will continue to be able to work very well with him. [We]  don't always agree on some of the issues, but there's enough that we do always agree on: we all agree that New York State needs more jobs, needs to be lower in taxes and needs to control spending. The governor has been the leader in those things, and I think that's why we have worked so well with him.

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