A divided state Senate spent its first day of session debating the merits of a package of new gun laws that would tighten restrictions on assault weapons, before passing it late Monday night in a 43-18 vote.
It was the first bill passed under the body’s new power sharing agreement, though it was unclear to some lawmakers who was actually in charge.
“It doesn’t matter,” said Temporary Co-President Jeff Klein, a Democrat who shares control of the Senate with Republican Dean Skelos. “We just passed an important piece of legislation.”
Still, few senators seemed to know whether Klein or Skelos was in charge on Monday.
“I’m not sure, I think it’s Jeff Klein,” said state Sen. Malcolm Smith, the newest member of Klein’s Independent Democratic Conference and a former Senate President Pro Tempore.
“Nobody knows…” said Democratic state Sen. Bill Perkins, adding “the troubles I’ve seen” in perfect pitch. “You should ask Jose Peralta.”
“I don’t know, I think it’s Jeff,” said state Sen. Peralta, also a Democrat. “But I would guess it’s Dean because [Deputy Majority Leader] Tom Libous is on the floor.”
“I don’t know, it’s always Dean Skelos,” said Democratic state Sen. Liz Krueger.
“You’re being funny. The guy discussing the bill today will be … this guy right here,” said Republican state Sen. Marty Golden while slapping Klein on the back.
“No, I don’t know,” said Democratic state Sen. Tony Avella. “There’s actually some sort of schedule.”
Avella is right about that. Both Klein and Skelos set a schedule for who would run the chambers through 2014, typically alternating on even and odd numbered days. This month, Skelos will be president on even days and Klein would get most odd days plus a 10-day period after Jan. 21. Next month, Skelos gets the first 15 days of February, Klein gets the second half of the month, and then it switches again in March, with Skelos getting odd days and Klein getting even days.
This meant that on Monday, Skelos had the honor of moving the governor’s package of gun bills to the floor for a vote.
I asked some other legislators if they knew who was in charge.
“I don’t know, I have no idea,” said state Sen. Simcha Felder, a Democrat caucusing with the GOP.
“I saw Jeff Klein standing up in the Senate but I also saw Dean Skelos lead the Republican conference so I believe Senator Skelos was the Majority Leader,” said Republican state Sen. Kathleen Marchione. “Much of what I saw today was Senator Skelos in charge. Sharing of power is not a bad thing.”
On both sides of the aisle there were few complaints from lawmakers about the power-sharing process, though the session is just getting started and there will be many more contentious issues to debate in the coming months.
Let’s try one more senator.
“Dean. Skelos,” said state Sen. David Carlucci, another member of the IDC.
You looked that up, didn’t you.
“Yeah, I had to,” he said. “I don’t have photographic memory. I wish I did.”
A previous version of this post referred to the position of majority leader, which technically no longer exists. State Senators Dean Skelos and Jeff Klein now share the new role of temporary president, and both are majority coalition conference leaders. A previous post also misquoted state Sen. David Carlucci. He said he does not have photographic memory, not that he does not have a playbook.