The following op-ed by Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith and Senate Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson appeared in the Albany Times Union today:
Put aside political disputes on this 'D-Day'
|By MALCOLM A. SMITH AND JOHN L. SAMPSON |
First published: Tuesday, June 30, 2009
In this dispute, today is "D-Day" -- when both sides must make government work.
Before today is over, the Senate must come to an agreement that will allow us to pass dozens of pieces of essential legislation. At stake are billions in federal stimulus money, billions in funding for schools and local governments, and hundreds of thousands of jobs.
As leaders of the Senate Democratic Conference, we think it's important that the public understand that we are willing to put aside all partisan disputes to complete this critical work.
Senate Democrats have repeatedly put forward proposals for a bipartisan operating agreement -- without preconditions -- that would allow the Senate to pass key legislation now and fight about leadership later.
Article III of the state Constitution dictates that there must be a majority of Senators elected -- 32 -- to have a quorum to conduct legislative business.
Right now, neither conference can convene a quorum without the cooperation of the other. And with 31 votes on each side, we need a bipartisan agreement to pass legislation.
Today we must pass dozens of bills: to fund local governments, to extend the Power for Jobs program that supports jobs and low-cost electricity for businesses and nonprofit groups across the state and to allow more than $3.8 billion in federal stimulus and education funds to flow to local school districts.
We can get this important work done -- if we put aside our differences.
In the past 15 years alone, ties between political conferences in the New Jersey Senate, Michigan House, Oklahoma Senate, Washington State House and U.S. Senate have led to bipartisan operating agreements where the ability to schedule legislation for a final vote is vested evenly between both parties.
In this situation, both sides must agree to put their claims to Senate leadership aside and open the Senate solely for the passage of agreed-upon legislation and return to the urgent business of the people.
We have made repeated private and public offers to the leaders of the other conference, but in our view, they have refused to negotiate any agreement.
It's time to put people above politics and get essential work done. We call on all of our fellow senators to join us in signing a simple bipartisan operating agreement for today's session that would allow us to pass needed bills and put aside our disputes. It's the right decision for today's "D-Day."