There is no such thing as an atheist in a foxhole, and there shouldn’t really be any such thing as a partisan ready to tear out the throat of his opponent on swearing-in day. Or so goes the imperfect metaphor.
Yes, the spirit of bi-partisanship was in the air as the 213th legislature became the 214th. In just about every interview I did members of both parties pledged to “work together” and help solve the state’s most vexing problems.
Those problems include the much talked about $9.5 billion anticipated structural debt. “tough choices” will need to made, I am told. And that is where the trouble begins. Underneath the veneer of cooperation were hidden little phrases and code words from The Democrats such as “we must maintain our core Democratic values.” In other words, we’ll agree to cuts as long as those cuts don’t hurt the people we were sent here to protect.
But while everyone was holding hands and singing about world peace, there was a stark reminder that “not everyone plays nice” in the Assembly chamber shortly after the Governor’s state of the state speech. Democrats moved to hold a vote on the ( relatively ) new state auditor who must be confirmed by a joint session of the legislature. Since joint sessions are rare, there was an attempt to do it on Tuesday – one of the more ceremonial days of the entire legislative session.
But here was the problem…Republicans in the Senate said they were not notified. And ample notification to confirm the auditor must be given to all the lawmakers who intend to vote, as well as the general public. Democrats say privately that the constitution is not that clear about notification when it comes to joint sessions, but Republicans say just the opposite. Senator Bill Baroni said no one in his caucus knew…and you can’t just “blind-side us on a day like today.” He added that this was “not the way to start the year.”
So what happened? Well a coupla theories here. The first is that the new Senate President Stephen Sweeney simply failed to notify the Republicans which would either be an honest mistake, or an attempt to stick it to them.
Another theory holds that the previous Senate President withheld the information from the new guy who ousted him in a party leadership coup. An attempt to make Sweeney look like a novice. In which case it’s not a question of bi-partisanship, but whether the Democrats are willing to work together in order to preserve and protect those “core values.”
In the end, Democrats agreed to redo the confirmation vote at the next joint session – likely after the ( new ) Governor’s budget message in March. And this time the proper notification will be given.