The legal battle is already underway over Gov. David Paterson’s appointment of Richard Ravitch as lieutenant governor.
Senate Republicans obtained a restraining order overnight that would prevent Ravitch from being sworn in and presiding over the Senate chambers later today.
Paterson’s office is claiming that Ravitch was sworn in Wednesday at 8 p.m., thwarting any restraining order.
A spokesman said Ravitch intends to preside over today’s 3 p.m. session.
Paterson announced Ravitch’s appointment shortly after 5 p.m. Wednesday in a statewide address as a way to break the month-long gridlock in the Senate.
But Ravitch’s appointment is set to create more chaos in an already tumultuous state Capitol, where legislative business has grinded to a halt since a June 8 revolt by Senate Republicans and two dissident Democrats upended the Democratic majority.
Republicans are crying foul over Paterson’s decision to quietly swear in Ravitch Wednesday night, saying Paterson himself indicated in the address that Ravitch’s ultimate fate could rest with the courts.
“It was clearly an attempt to circumvent the law and prevent the courts from looking at whether this was done in violation of the constitution,” said John McArdle, spokesman for Senate Republicans.
“If that’s the case, then they lied about their intentions and they lied about the matter being settled by the courts.”
Paterson is expected to appear with Ravitch at an 11:30 a.m. news conference at the Capitol.
With the Senate gridlocked at 31-31, Ravitch could break tie votes and end the stalemate. But Ravitch can’t create a quorum of 32 members.
So the 30 Republicans and one Democrat, Sen. Pedro Espada, D-Bronx, are planning to attend the 3 p.m. Senate session ordered by Paterson, but are expected to leave. They are not planning to vote on legislation because they will refuse to recognize Ravitch as the presiding officer – similar to what they have done each day when Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers, has presided.
Democrats said Tuesday they plan to vote on bills today, claiming that once all 62 members enter the chamber, they have a quorum to begin passing legislation.
Republicans are also hammering Paterson for using the announcement to boost his record-low poll numbers. Soon after Wednesday’s announcement, Paterson’s campaign sent out automated phone messages and emails across the state to tout the decision.
Here’s the restraining order signed early this morning: