Phillips appointed banks committee chair on heels of Democrats reconciliation deal

Phillips appointed banks committee chair on heels of Democrats reconciliation deal
State Sen. Elaine Phillips was appointed to chair the senate Banks committee following the unification of the senate Democrats. (Photo courtesy of the office of Elaine Phillips)

State Sen. Elaine Phillips was appointed to serve as the state Senate Banks Committee chairman on Friday by Majority Leader John Flanagan after a group of Democrats who had been caucusing with the Republicans reunited with their conference.

The renegade Democrats, known as the Independent Democratic Conference, broke off in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s first week in office, giving Republicans control of the state Senate.

The Independent Democratic Conference under the leadership of state Sen. Jeffrey Klein voted against traditional party lines. Klein will now serve as deputy minority leader under Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.

Despite the deal, the control remains with the GOP, with a 31-29 majority.  There are two vacant seats.

A single holdout by Brooklyn’s Simcha Felder, a Democrat who said he will continue to caucus with Republicans, brings the GOP majority to 32.

The decision, which The New York Times reported “came together [last] Tuesday over coffee and cookies at a Manhattan steakhouse,” wasn’t expected until after the April 24 special elections.

There are 11 vacant spots in the state Legislature, nine in the Assembly and two in the Senate.

Only one special election falls in Nassau County, for the 17th Assembly District; the seat was vacated upon the resignation of Nassau County Legislator Thomas McKevitt.

Two other Assembly seats up for re-election are in Suffolk County.

The elections are in the 5th Assembly District, with the resignation of Judge Alfred Graf (R-Holbrook), and the 10th Assembly District, with the resignation of Huntington Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R-Huntington).

If Democrats win the two Senate seats vacated by Democrats, and Felder chooses to caucus with his party, the Democrats will have control of the chamber – bringing one-party control over both houses and the governor’s office.

The deal also came days after Cuomo drew a primary candidate, actress Cynthia Nixon, who made the bipartisan alliance in Albany a focus of her attacks on the governor’s progressive credentials.

Nixon tweeted that the announcement of the Democrats’ reconciliation  “shows the power of our movement.”

“Power concedes nothing without a demand. We demanded – and now a terrified establishment is throwing voters a bone,” Nixon tweeted.

She added that Cuomo claimed he was powerless against the Independent Democratic Conference for eight years.

“And then since launching our campaign he – surprise! – found the power,” Nixon tweeted.

Cuomo told The Times in terms of the deal Nixon’s role “had nothing to do with it.”

Along with Phillips, who replaces state Sen. Jesse Hamilton, three other Republican senators replaced Democrats in committee chair positions.

State Sen. Fred Akshar will chair Labor, state Sen. Chris Jacobs will chair Consumer Protection and state Sen. Pam Helming will chair Children and Families.

In a statement, Phillips, who previously worked for over 20 years in the financial services sector, said she looks forward to bringing her private sector experience to this new role.


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