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State Legislature Could Use More Like Felder

We wonder if it has ever occurred to Gov. Andrew Cuomo that not everyone in New York state agrees with him?

His arm-twisting of Sen. Simcha Felder, a Brooklyn Democrat who has chosen to caucus with Senate Republicans, makes us wonder.

The governor thought he would have a clear path to bolster his case with Democratic Party voters by passing a boatload of legislation in the wake of Democratic Party victories in two special state Senate elections in April. Based on party affiliation, Democrats have a 32-31 edge in the chamber, but Felder’s choice to remain in the Republican caucus meant Republicans kept control of the chamber for the rest of the legislative session.

“Usually an executive is warned to avoid “interference” with the legislative branch of government,” Cuomo wrote in an April 25 letter to Felder that was sent to media outlets throughout the state. “Through the years governors have been criticized for meddling with Senate or Assembly leadership decisions as it violated the separation of powers policy. These are not usual days. I have also said I am committed to electing a functional Democratic majority as 32 is not a functional conference as the recent past dysfunctional episodes have proven. From that perspective, let me say that the Democratic Conference will not need you in November the way they need you now. I believe there will be additional Democrats who win and are seated for the next legislature. You have said that you act in the best interest of your constituents. For their benefit, now is the time that matters. I know what you said yesterday, but this morning brings a new reality.”

Felder is a controversial voice in the Senate known for doing what is best for his constituents, even if it means holding up the state budget, as he did this year. Political expediency would dictate Felder join the Democratic Party caucus — if only to preserve Felder’s status after the November elections. Obviously, Felder has some issues with parts of the Democratic Party platform, or he would have jumped at the opportunity to leverage his position as the swing vote in the Senate in order to benefit himself or a piece of legislation he holds near and dear.

Instead, Felder chose to stay put. It is somewhat refreshing to see someone who can’t be bullied by the political machinery. Perhaps the answer to what ails New York state is legislators willing to stand up to bully tactics, like Simcha Felder.

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