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Rule changes in new power sharing Senate draw criticism from good government groups

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Albany/HV: Rule changes in new power sharing Senate draw criticism from good government groups
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The state Senate convened for the first time this year with it's unique power sharing government and in order to build a coalition government, new rules needed to be adopted. YNN's Zack Fink has the story.

The state Senate is now run by Republican Conference Leader Sen. Dean Skelos in a power sharing arrangement with Sen. Jeff Klein of the Bronx who leads the five member Independent Democratic Conference.

In order to forge this untested alliance, the Senate rules had to be changed, and critics say they did not change for the better.

"The rules memorialize a situation where the allocation is based on who is most powerful, not who represents the most people," Susan Lerner of Common Cause New York said. "That's just unfair and it's simply wrong."

According to Common Cause New York, a majority of New York state elected Democrats. But the IDC, along with Republicans, are taking the lion's share of resources.

That's everything from office space to taxpayer funded staff.

In addition, the rules didn't get printed and sent out to members until late Tuesday night, the night before the new legislature was set to convene. Democrats objected to proposed rules changes they hadn't had a chance to read.

"I was under the impression we were going to be given the opportunity to debate the resolution," Manhattan said Liz Kreuger said on the Senate floor Friday. "So I am a little confused about an immediate calling of a vote on the resolution."

There will be no majority leader. The rules call for a rotating temporary Senate president.

For the months of January, March and June it will switch every day between Klein and Skelos. For the less active session months, that change will occur every two weeks.

Skelos, however, will remain the chair of the critical Rules Committee. Klein says that doesn't diminish his power.

"When we have to agree on every piece of legislation that comes to the floor," Klein said. "Once a bill comes out of the Rules Committee, before it goes onto the active list, which means the bills that are before the members each and every day, myself and Senator Skelos have to agree."

Democrats say they will propose their own rule changes on Monday.

It's perhaps one of several attempts they will make this session to add transparency to what is undoubtedly a unique power sharing arrangement that leaves Democrats on the outside.

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