Sen. Darrel J. Aubertine, D-Cape Vincent, brokered a deal Thursday morning that would have put the state Senate back in session and fast-tracked his priority bills to the top of the to-do list.
But the session never materialized, imploding after Mr. Aubertine and Sen. Dean G. Skelos, the majority leader of the Republican-led opposition, disagreed about what they had just hours before agreed upon.
Both men said their deal included Mr. Aubertine attending the session to help the coalition meet the 32-member quorum needed to do business in the 62-member body. They also agree that Sen. George H. Winner, R-Elmira, would preside over Thursday's session, with Sen. David J. Valesky, D-Oneida, presiding over Monday's session.
Their mutual understanding splits here.
"We talked over what I thought was a reasonable scenario to finish up the end of session, which was to use the agenda they had already put forward and go to work on that today using a power-sharing agreement which would allow everyone to come back into the chamber," Mr. Aubertine said. "They would control it today and we would control it Monday."
But Mr. Skelos, R-Rockville Centre, said Mr. Aubertine "understood that the vote had been taken last week: 32-30" that had elevated Sen. Pedro Espada Jr., D-Bronx, to the president pro tempore spot in the coalition.
To the Republican majority leader, by Mr. Aubertine "coming out on the floor, he was joining the coalition. He was going to be out on the floor because it was time to get the work done."
The two senators said they never discussed what role Mr. Espada would play for the two days remaining in session.
This is ultimately what killed the deal when the two men met a second time among a group that included Sens. Jeffrey D. Klein, deputy Democratic majority leader; Thomas W. Libous, R-Binghamton; John Sampson, Democratic conference leader; Malcolm A. Smith, Democratic majority leader, and Mr. Espada.
"The assumption is if we have Dave Valesky on the dais, the floor leader would be Jeff Klein and Malcolm would be the majority leader and president pro tem. They insisted they couldn't do that," said Mr. Aubertine, who does not support Mr. Espada as president.
Mr. Skelos said Mr. Espada had no issue with Mr. Valesky presiding over the session Monday, and added the Bronx Democrat had "offered to step down in six months as temporary president in order to bring everything together."
But Mr. Aubertine said the Democratic conference could not accept Mr. Espada as president even for the two remaining session days because it would be a tacit acknowledgment of the coalition's power structure. It also would weaken his conference's ability to create a "true coalition" that included equal allocation of money and resources for senators and joint committee chairmanships.
Mr. Skelos said he felt betrayed, saying Mr. Aubertine "gave me his word" he would attend the session and give coalition members the quorum they have been seeking since a June 8 coup.
"We shook hands," the coalition majority leader said. "The way I was brought up, when you give your word and shake hands with someone, that's it."
Mr. Aubertine countered: "The other side seems to be, for whatever reason, really stuck on the idea of having Pedro Espada. It's just that one issue; if that were resolved, we would be able to move this whole thing forward."
Mr. Aubertine said that before talks broke down, several Democrats agreed to attend the session with the understanding that leadership would alternate. Mr. Aubertine had assurances from Mr. Skelos that his bills, including an extender on sales tax in Oswego County and the Power for Jobs program, would be voted on before Monday's scheduled recess. Power for Jobs, an incentive-based program used by several north country businesses, expires June 30.
State Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome, also wants to extend Power for Jobs. He's been waiting for session to resume.
"It doesn't take courage to do your job," he said Thursday. "I would expect every Senate member to be reporting to the session. There are critical bills, yet nobody is following up on their word by attending session and taking up these bills."