Senate Coup Plotters' Hidden Agenda

Tabloids call it a circus, but the lobbyists' goal is to squelch reforms

Democratic control of Senate committees also brought the power to shine a spotlight in places Republicans had preferred to leave dark. On May 29, 10 days before the coup shut everything down, Harlem Senator Bill Perkins, new chairman of a committee overseeing state authorities, held the Senate's first public hearing on the massive $4 billion Atlantic Yards project.

The Forest City Ratner deal was made possible by an official sleight of hand that allowed it to skirt city land use regulations. Under Republican control, the Senate asked no questions. Even at the hearing, they still offered protection. Brooklyn's lone GOP senator, Marty Golden, burst into the hearings late and, backed by cheers from building trades workers, proceeded to mock Perkins and Montgomery, in whose district the project sits, for "holding the project hostage."

Before the coup squelched their chances, there was strong hope for several valuable measures. At the top of the list was long-stalled state campaign finance reform. A bill introduced in the Senate by Schneiderman, and by Jim Brennan of Brooklyn in the Assembly, proposed to cut the maximum allowable donation to statewide office seekers from $56,000 to $7,500; Senate and Assembly contributions would be cut to a third of their current levels. Diane Savino, a Democrat from Staten Island and Brooklyn, was hopeful as well of winning passage of a bill—pending for five years—to give domestic workers some rudimentary on-the-job protections, such as time-and-a-half pay for work over 40 hours, and a day off for every seven days worked.

The coup also shut down efforts by Schneiderman to win passage of legislation that would let modern technology help cops fight gun crimes. His bill would mandate that guns sold in New York include a new microstamping process that imprints a serial number on every bullet fired. This lets police trace bullets used in crimes even if the gun itself can't be found. The NRA opposes the move, and at the gun lobby's behest, Golden, an ex-cop, introduced his own bill seeking to bury the measure with "further study."

Thanks to last month's intervention by Albany's powerbrokers, the NRA need fret no longer. And with the tabloids running interference, the true victims of the Senate coup will never know what hit them.

trobbins@villagevoice.com

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