Minutes after the Senate adjourned for the weekend, a visibly shaken Manhattan Democrat, Senator Tom Duane, held an impromptu press conference with a handful of LCA members in the pressroom.
Duane says he had been assured by Republican Majority Leader Dean Skelos that his bill (S4098) “to limit the percentage of income payable towards shelter costs by persons with HIV or AIDS” would be allowed a floor vote.
Today it failed because it didn’t muster the 32 votes necessary for passage.
Duane stopped just short of telling reporters that the Senate Majority Leader had lied to him.
“Adults lie by omission,” he said. Duane immediately stated that Senator Skelos omitted telling him there would be an up or down vote on this bill, which had already been through the Rules Committee.
There is an assumption, Duane asserted, that at the end of session, bills that have been voted out of rules and sent to floor have the votes to pass.
But a statement emailed to me by the Senate Majority press office refutes Duane’s characterization.
“Senator Skelos made a commitment that we would bring Senator Duane’s bill to the floor, put the bill on today’s active list and the Senator indicated he was pleased. We informed him on two occasions that we didn’t believe he had secured the votes to pass this bill and said he could lay the bill aside and bring it back at another time. He refused. If Senator Duane is upset with anyone it should be the eight Democrats who couldn’t bother to show up and vote, and who were responsible for the bill being voted down.”
When asked about the 8 absent Democratic lawmakers, most of whom would have likely voted for the bill, Duane reminded reporters that the same bill had passed in the chamber by a vote of 52 to 1 in 2009.
“I know this was a breach of protocol,” he asserted. “I’ve been here for many years and only since I’ve been here has it been my job to make sure my bill passes.”
Senate Democratic Spokesman Mike Murphy emailed this statement: ”…today’s actions should erase all doubt that the Senate Republican Majority has become increasingly influenced by a radical Tea Party agenda. Instead of providing for common decency and basic, essential services for New Yorkers impacted by HIV/AIDS, the Senate Republicans put politics ahead of humanity and voted down this legislation.”
Duane, who has announced he will retire after this legislative session is the only HIV positive member of the Senate as well as the body’s only openly gay lawmaker. This piece of legislation may be the last bill of his career. “It is beyond my imagination why Senator Skelos did not say ‘up or down’ vote to me, and allowed this bill to come to the floor today”.
“The fight on this issue goes on,” he told reporters with his eyes closed.