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Republicans retain State Senate majority

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Buffalo: Republicans retain State Senate majority
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In what's being called a historic coalition between democrats and republicans. The five member Independent Democratic Conference and Senate republicans are forming a new governing coalition. Our Nick Reisman has more.

ALBANY, N.Y. -- Republicans and a breakaway faction of Democrats have agreed to a power sharing arrangement in the State Senate that has political observers questioning whether the experiment will be a grand success or a dysfunctional failure.

“There have been coalition leadership arrangements in other chambers before. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't. It really depends on the determination of the leaders to make it work,” said Tim Storey, a legislative expert with the National Conference of State Legislature.

The plan announced by Republican leader Dean Skelos of Long Island and Independent Democratic Conference leader Jeff Klein of the Bronx allows the GOP to retain some power over committee assignments, staff allocations and the budget. The proposal also would rotate the job of Senate president between Klein and Skelos every two weeks.

“I'm sure there will be some balance of power due to the fortnightly changing of leaders in the house, but will that extend to every member, every senator? We won't know for sure until we see what the rules look like and what the budget looks like,” said Bill Mahoney of the New York Public Interest Research Group.

Democrats criticized the move, calling it yet another rehash of the Senate coup of 2009 that ground action in the chamber to a halt for more than a month. But those who know Klein say that isn't the intent.

“This is clearly not a coup. What it demonstrates is the IDC and Jeff Klein a commitment to move New York State forward,” former senator Craig Johnson said.

For the Senate Republicans, joining forces with the IDC allows them to keep some control the chamber.

“I'm willing to work with anybody as long as they're going to be fair and treat every region of the state fairly. I think that's going to be critically important,” said Senator Joe Robach.

Klein told me a phone interview that he believes the coalition can pass legislation raising the minimum wage, reforming stop and frisk arrests and overhauling campaign finance laws, all goals Governor Andrew Cuomo wants to see accomplished. When the idea of a coalition was first floated, Cuomo signaled he could work with a coalition.

“I think if anything we've proven we can work with just about anybody in any political configuration,” Cuomo said.

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