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Renegade Democrats ally with GOP, preserve Republican power in north country

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ALBANY – The state Senate Republican Conference and the Independent Democratic Caucus announced the creation of the Senate Majority Coalition Tuesday in a move that finalizes the control of the Senate for the 2013 legislative session.

The move ensures Senate Republicans maintain partial control over the Senate even as ballots are being disputed in the 46th and 41th Senate Districts.

“It’s good news for the north country,” said Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton.

Ms. Ritchie, chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said, “I would assume that a lot of [current chair positions] would be maintained.”

That would mean the largely Republican Northern New York Senate coalition would be kept in positions of power.

Senators in the north county, including Ms. Ritchie, Sen. Elizabeth O’C. Little, R-Queensbury, and Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome, all have committee chair positions that could have been lost if the Democrats managed to take back control of the chamber.

“This is a very promising model for our state Senate,” said Daniel E. Mac Entee, director of Communications for Ms. Little.

The power sharing agreement will see the position of Temporary President of the Senate swap between Sen. Dean G. Skelos, R-Rockville Centre, leader of the Senate Republicans, and Sen. Jeffrey D. Klein, D-Morris Park, leader of the IDC, every two weeks.

The two men will also be responsible for the daily senate agenda, the state budget, appointments to state and local boards and leadership and committee assignments according to a statement sent out by Mr. Skelos.

Mr. Mac Entee said he expects committee assignments to be announced early next year.

The IDC broke with the mainstream Democrats two years ago and, as of Tuesday, has picked up a fifth member.

Sen. Malcolm A. Smith, D-Queens, announced his membership in the IDC on Tuesday.

“I’m very confident that the new governing model we’re announcing today is the best way to get the results that New York’s families and businesses need,” Mr. Smith said in a statement.

Mr. Mac Entee said the new model “ensures that all regions of the state are represented in Albany.”

Ms. Ritchie said she has a very positive relationship with IDC member Sen. David J. Valesky, D-Oneida, who sits on the Agriculture Committee.

She said Mr. Valesky is also a co-sponsor of her bill that would maintain a separate president for SUNY Potsdam and SUNY Canton. The two have also worked together on animal abuse legislation and the state’s Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage program.

“This is a new development,” Ms. Ritchie said, “but something that I believe can be successful.”

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