As legislators return to Albany this week, members of the New York State Senate from both parties will face a new situation: A Democratic Senate majority. For most senators, this will be a first.
The State Senate has been a Republican-dominated legislative body for some time. Between 1940 and 2008, Republicans enjoyed a Senate majority for 67 out of 68 years. In the 2008 elections, Democrats won a Senate majority; however, the Republicans retook the chamber in 2010 and have held it (with help from the Independent Democratic Conference and Sen. Simcha Felder, D-Brooklyn) ever since.
Only 10 of the 39 members of the Senate Democratic Conference have had the experience of serving in the Senate Majority, either because they served in the Senate in 2009 and 2010 or because they were part of the Independent Democratic Conference and its power-sharing arrangement with Senate Republicans. The other 29 Democratic senators will be in the majority for the very first time, and will enjoy new perks like committee chairships, large staffs, and spacious offices. On a more substantive level, Senate Democrats will also be able to advance their bills to the Senate floor more easily than they have in the past. The new Democratic majority will likely experience a learning curve as well; most of its members do not have any experience in managing the Senate’s operations.
Of the 23 Republicans elected to the State Senate last fall, only nine have served in the Senate as members of the minority party; 14 have not. For Senate Republicans, the new session will involve a difficult adjustment to fewer staffers, smaller offices, and limits on the ability to advance legislative priorities.
As senators from both parties adjust to the “new normal” of Democratic leadership, New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms humbly offers a few thoughts. First, collegiality with members of the other party is a good thing. While principled disagreement is inevitable in a representative government, the interests of the people of the Empire State are not advanced by bickering or animosity. (Romans 12:18 says, “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.”) Second, if the tide is going in the wrong direction, do not be afraid to swim against it. Third (and most importantly), when you are in need of wisdom, look to your Creator—and to His Word—for guidance.