Senate Passes Rules Changes, Democrats Attack

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Senate Republicans and the Independent Democratic Conference voted tonight to change the rules of the Senate to bar Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy from breaking tie votes, which was one of the key duties of his office.

Republicans believe the changes clarify murky legal language in the constitution. But Democrats claim the changes are unconstitutional.

The rules changes passed 36-26, with all Republicans and all four members of the IDC voting for it.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday said Senate Republicans were wrong in attempting to take away the lieutenant governor’s tie-breaking vote.

“I think they are incorrect on their reading of the law,” said Cuomo, who didn’t elaborate.

Democrats were quick to criticize the vote after more than two hours of debate on the Senate floor tonight. They particularly targeted upstate Republican senators, including Rochester-area Sens. Joseph Robach and James Alesi, saying they are stripping power away from Duffy, the former Rochester mayor and top elected official in upstate.

“In a brazen power grab, without any public notice or input, Senate Republicans have brought the state to the brink of a constitutional crisis by stripping Lt. Gov Duffy of his constitutional authority,” Senate Minority Leader John Sampson, D-Brooklyn, said in a statement. “Threatening the integrity of our State Constitution, which has protected New Yorkers for over 200 years, and attacking Upstate New York’s highest ranking elected official just because he is a Democrat is politics at its worst.”

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