A day after the Senate GOP and five renegade Dems agreed to jointly run the chamber, the Rev. Al Sharpton said the deal precludes the minority-heavy Democrats from leading despite winning as many as 33 of 63 seats.
There is only one black member among the Dems working with the GOP, compared to 15 black and Hispanic legislators in the traditional Democratic conference, Sharpton said.
He called it a “perversion of justice” that ignores tradition that the party with the most seats controls the chamber. He said It also denies minority lawmakers a chance to chair committees and set the agenda that matters to their constituents..
“This means that policy and resource discussion on issues such as Stop and Frisk, affordable housing and rebuilding the Rockaways after Hurricane Sandy will be led by Senators from Upstate New York rather than those Senators whose communities are most directly impacted by these policies and events,” he said.
“Moreover, it would be enormously troubling for any leader in this state to allow such a miscarriage of justice and obstruction of the will of the people to go forward,” Sharpton added.
Sen. Bill Perkins (D-Manhattan) agrees with Sharpton’s assessment.
“It’s a sham; I don’t believe it’s going to work,” Perkins said of the coalition.
Perkins also expressed disappointment in Gov. Cuomo for not doing more to help the Democrats gain control of the chamber.
“I don’t think it helps him,” when asked if this hurts the governor’s already up-and-down relationship with the minority community. “The governor has been very good in some respects and I support that. In instances like this, there’s substantial room for improvement. I’m interested in working with him towards improving that. I don’t think this is the legacy he wants to carry or foster.”
Senate GOP spokesman Scott Reif and Independent Democratic Conference rep Eric Soufer had no comment.
IDC Leader Jeffrey Klein (D-Bronx) has said he expects to push a progressive agenda next year that includes many of the items the Dems want like a minimum wage hike and campaign finance reform.
Some Dems, though, believe the bills will be unacceptably watered down in order to get the GOP to agree to allow them to the floor for votes.
Here is the full Sharpton letter:
STATEMENT FROM REV. AL SHARPTON REGARDING NY STATE SENATE
"It is a fact that President Obama won New York by the second largest plurality in the nation after Vermont, and by all accounts it would appear that there will be 33 Democratic Senators and 30 Republican Senators elected to the New York State Senate.
Within the body of the Democratic Senators there are 15 Senators of color, including the current Minority Leader. Throughout the entire history of New York State, it has always held true that the party with the majority of Senators runs New York's Senate. In this instance, come January 1, 15 Senators of color should hold critical Senate Chairmanships on committees such as housing, criminal justice, the judiciary and education, acting upon policies consistent with President Obama and the lifeblood of Black and Brown New Yorkers.
For 30 Republican and 6 Democratic State Senators to brazenly ignore tradition and history in the State Senate, and effectively deny these legislators of color what is rightfully theirs: the ability to chair committees and pursue policies and initiatives that reflect the will of the people is a perversion of justice. This means that policy and resource discussion on issues such as Stop and Frisk, affordable housing and rebuilding the Rockaways after Hurricane Sandy will be led by Senators from Upstate New York rather than those Senators whose communities are most directly impacted by these policies and events.
Moreover, it would be enormously troubling for any leader in this state to allow such a miscarriage of justice and obstruction of the will of the people to go forward.
I am consulting with New York elected leaders interested in ensuring that justice and fairness prevails, and we will kick off a campaign this Saturday towards this end at the House of Justice."
Rev. Al Sharpton, President of National Action Network