Senate Snafu Saga

As if the coming budget process would not be difficult enough, the Senate has announced that there will not be any staff changes – until right before the budget deadline. I understand that is “inside baseball” news, but it will radically confuse lobbying during the coming session. Here is the news from the Albany Times Union politics blog.

Senate staffing in a holding pattern until March 31

December 30, 2008 at 5:05 pm by Irene Jay Liu

Senate majority staffers are breathing a little easier this holiday season – there won’t be any of the post-election expected layoffs, at least until March 31, 2009. The delay in staff changes is by agreement between Senate Republicans and Democrats, confirmed Senate Majority spokesman Mark Hansen.

The delay in transitioning staffs is because the Senate has yet to determine which party will lead the Senate – neither party has been able to do much in terms of transition since Democrats won the majority in November, because three rogue Democrats have not committed their support of Senate Democratic Leader Malcolm Smith.

At the moment, Senate Democrats are also in a holding pattern in regard to hiring – they are looking at resumes and in some cases, interviewing candidates, but no commitments have been made.

Despite the agreed-upon delay, some staffers are jumping ship before Dec. 31, 2008, so they can avoid a new law taking effect in the new year that would restrict them from lobbying for two years after leaving state employment.

This means that even if Smith wins the leadership vote on Jan. 7, 2009, his administration will take time to ramp up, which would normally have happened the period between the election and the opening of legislative session.

This puts even more pressure on Gov. David Paterson, who has asked legislative leaders to pass a $1.7 billion midyear budget reduction bill by February 1.

So Smith, if he becomes majority leader, will have to lead and make serious budget decisions by the seat of his pants, but he’ll be in good company. Paterson had a five-day transition period before he ascended to the governorship in March of this year.

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