A routine bill in the state Senate regarding a Rockland County church suddenly became the stage for a lengthy speech on Christian principles and filing for property tax exemptions, as Sen. Kevin Parker today launched into an apparent filibuster that lasted for more than 25 minutes.
The filibuster apparently stems from a rift between Senate Democrats and Republicans surrounding the process of bringing resolutions to the floor. Senate Democrats claim that the GOP, which holds a 32-29 majority in the chamber, blocked a trio of resolutions from being put to a vote, including one that would support the federal DREAM Act and another dealing with the issue of violence against women.
This isn’t a new gripe, mind you. The Democrats cried foul earlier this year after Republicans returned a resolution commemorating the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, crossing out any mention of contraception and the reproductive system.
So when a bill that would have essentially allowed an exemption from property taxes for the St. James Mar Thoma Church in Hillburn came up for a vote, Parker, a Brooklyn Democrat, rose and spoke continuously for close to a half-hour, speaking about a variety of different topics — including churches in Brooklyn, housing provided by churches and their history — in an apparent attempt to get under the GOP’s skin.
“What we are seeing is that Senate Republicans are so scared to talk about women’s health and well being and immigration issues that they refuse to even bring up non-binding resolutions on the floor,” Senate Democrats spokesman Mike Murphy said in an email. “This is Rick Santorum type politics at its worst. They denied a resolution calling for the re authorization of the Violence Against Women Act.”
Not surprisingly, the Senate GOP didn’t quite see it that way.
“This tells you everything you want to know about the priorities of the two conferences,” Senate Republicans spokesman Scott Reif said in an email. “While the Senate Democrats are arguing about non-binding resolutions, we’re talking about the need to include job creation initiatives that put people back to work in this year’s budget.”
UPDATE: Here’s video of today’s session. The debate surrounding the bill begins around the 27-minute mark, with Parker’s filibuster starting shortly thereafter.