Sunday, December 21, 2008

GOP Takes Whack at Denying Dem Seat by Fredric U Dicker and Brendan Scott - New York Post

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Senate Republicans vowed yesterday to try to block the seating of Queens Democratic Senator-elect Hiram Monserrate next month in the wake of his shocking arrest on a charge of first-degree assault.

"The arrest means he doesn't sit," insisted Sen. Martin Golden (R-Brooklyn), who, like City Councilman Monserrate, is an ex-city cop.

"I don't think anyone who has a pending felony assault against them should be seated. He shouldn't be seated with the body until he's found guilty or not guilty, and if he's found guilty, he shouldn't be seated," Golden added.

Republicans narrowly lost control of the Senate in last month's elections for the first time since 1965.

Keeping Monserrate, 41, out of the Senate could help Republicans in their ongoing effort to keep control by winning the votes of the "Gang of Three" renegade Democrats.

John McArdle, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Nassau County), said, "Our lawyers are looking at all the options."

It wasn't clear, however, if Senate rules and state law would allow the Legislature's upper house to block the seating of an elected member.

The state Constitution appears to give the Senate and the Assembly the right to expel members once they are sworn into office - but not to refuse to seat those who are newly elected and have yet to take office, legislative experts said.

State law does say that any lawmaker convicted of a felony is immediately removed from office.

Austin Shafran, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Malcolm Smith (D-Queens), said Monserrate faced "very serious charges that will be addressed by the proper authorities."

Election results gave the Democrats a 32-30 seat edge over Republicans.