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Mike BarryEye on the Island

By Mike Barry
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NYS Senate’s Makeup

The composition of the New York state Senate was up in the air as of Thanksgiving Eve, with absentee ballots still being counted in upstate’s 46th Senatorial District (SD).

State Assemblyman George Amedore (R-Rotterdam) held a slight edge in the 46th SD’s balloting on that day over his Democratic opponent, Duanesburg, NY school board member Cecilia Tkaczyk. Should Assemblyman Amedore become Senator Amedore, the Republicans will have won 31 of the 63 state Senate seats on Tuesday, Nov. 6.

So, the GOP will be in the state Senate’s minority next year then, right? Not necessarily. Brooklyn state Senator-elect Simcha Felder, elected as a Democrat on the first Tuesday of November, announced this month that he would caucus with the Republicans and become their 31st member, allowing the GOP to retain the state Senate’s majority, if Amedore became the 32nd Republican state Senator.

As such, the outcome in New York’s 46th SD has very real consequences for Long Island, which re-elected its eight Republican incumbent state Senators as well as a new one, state Assemblyman Philip Boyle (R-Bay Shore), who will succeed the retiring state Senator Owen Johnson.

Should the Republicans hold a 32-31 majority in the state Senate when the state Legislature reconvenes in January 2013, Nassau and Suffolk will have sent nine of those 32 senators to Albany, giving this region a sizable say in how federal monies related to Hurricane Sandy are allocated, and how the Long Island Power Authority is restructured. State educational aid disbursements are also a big issue, as school boards will struggle in 2013 to keep their property tax increases limited to 2 percent, or less, in advance of spring’s budget votes.

Should Senator Tkaczyk become the 32nd Democrat in the state Senate, the first thing you’ll likely see is Senator Felder walking back across the aisle, giving the Democrats a 33-30 majority. That will also certainly mean state Senator Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) is no longer the state Senate’s majority leader.

If you follow Albany’s political machinations, you’ve probably read or heard about a group of four renegade state Senators, all of whom are Democrats, who have little use for the Democrats who would likely lead the state Senate under this scenario. These senators are supposedly open to forming a coalition with the GOP, allowing Senator Skelos to remain as majority leader in exchange for certain governmental goodies (e.g., committee chairmanships, which allow state legislators to boost their clout and pay).

A small group of New York City Democrats held majority leadership positions in the state Senate in 2009 and 2010, and didn’t distinguish themselves, these four Democratic state Senators correctly concluded. Exhibit A: the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (MTA) payroll tax was enacted in 2009. That tax was partially rescinded only after the GOP regained control of the state Senate in 2011.

The problem for the state Senate’s GOP candidates this year came in places like the mid-Hudson Valley, where state Senator Stephen Saland (R-Poughkeepsie) was ousted, and in Westchester County, where the talented Bob Cohen was unable to flip retiring state Senator Suzi Oppenheimer’s (D-Mamaroneck) seat into the Republican column. That’s why the GOP is obsessing over the 46th SD.

Mike Barry, a corporate communications consultant, has worked in government and journalism. Email: