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Finding balance of power within the Senate chamber proves to be complicated

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Albany/HV: Finding balance of power within the Senate chamber proves to be complicated
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With downstate Senator Tony Avella's announcement that he's going the State Senate's Majority Coalition, the Democratic Conference shrinks by one. But the balance of power in the Senate chamber is much more complicated than that. Capital Tonight's Nick Reisman reviews the math.

NEW YORK STATE -- New York State Senate hasn't exactly been a model of stability over the last few years. Leadership coups, infighting and party switching have all been hallmarks of the chamber in recent years. But Senator Tony Avella's defection to the Independent Democratic Conference, he says, was motivated by something far simpler.

"Obviously when you're in the majority that does make it easier to move things ahead and for me it's all about the job. It's all about getting things done," said Tony Avella, Queens, Senate.

Minority legislators in Albany have long complained that being out numbered also means being outgunned. Those in the majority get their legislation approved and on occasion committee chairmanships, which Avella is now in line for.

Avella said, "Look forward to more committee assignments. A chairmanship would be great. I look forward to the work."

Then again, it's tough to tell who is precisely in the minority these days given the rather confusing math in the chamber.

The Senate is composed of 29 Republicans, 24 mainline Democrats and five independent Democrats. The GOP and the IDC are in a governing majority. Two Democrats were booted from their conferences when they were indicted on corruption charges, there are also two vacancies. And Brooklyn Democrat Simcha Felder, meanwhile, sits with the Republican conference.

Senate Democrats insist they can still gain a clean majority that will give them the traditional trappings of power.

"The Democrats have the majority. We shall be the governing majority and our focus frankly is serving the people of New York and not poaching members from this place or that," said Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Senate Democratic Leader.

As for Governor Andrew Cuomo, he is trying to stay above the Senate fray, but noted the coalition has been functioning in the chamber.

Governor Cuomo added, "We've had good success in Albany working together. Democrats, Republicans, this whole coalition is working and I want to stay away from the politics."

And just like the governor, IDC Leader Jeff Klein said his conference is focusing not on politics, but upcoming policy issues.

Jeff Klein, Senate IDC Leader said, "We're not here to talk about politics yet. We have plenty of time when we enter the official political season. Now it's about governing."

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