Tuesday, January 09, 2007

SPITZER TRIES CHARM ON LAWMAKERS

JAY GALLAGHER THE JOURNAL NEWS

Jay gives us his spin on Eliot's legislative meanderings.......

ALBANY - Breaking with tradition, Gov. Eliot Spitzer continued his charm offensive yesterday by meeting privately with Senate Republicans and then appearing at the opening session of the state Assembly.
"It was an opportunity for us to see where we have agreement," and where there are still differences of opinion, Spitzer said after emerging from the hour-long meeting with GOP senators - the first such session in memory between a governor and the ruling senators.
Spitzer said the upstate economy, the state's fiscal condition, reforms, energy and housing were among the topics discussed.
"It was a wonderful conversation," he said, adding he intends to do it again.
Spitzer also met privately earlier yesterday with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and a small group of Assembly Democrats interested in reform issues, including Government Operations Committee Chairwoman RoAnn Destito, D-Rome, Oneida County. No agreements were announced from that session.
The meetings marked a significant culture change at the Capitol, where former Gov. George Pataki seldom met with lawmakers other than the leaders and had a contentious relationship with many of them.
Several GOP senators said later that few difficult issues came up in their meeting with Spitzer, and that it was merely a get-acquainted session.
Spitzer has laid out positions on several issues - including public financing of campaigns, ending gerrymandering of legislative districts, allowing gay marriage and an expanded bottle-deposit bill - that most Republicans are adamantly against.
Sen. James Alesi, R-Perinton, Monroe County, said lawmakers did point out to Spitzer in the meeting that while he has talked about ethical problems among lawmakers, most are clean.
"When the governor is talking about 'cleaning up the grime,' he should take into consideration that when you take 212 legislators and you have half a dozen that have some problems, the rest of us are hard-working, honest and committed people who leave our homes, leave our families to do a job that is at best difficult and frustrating," Alesi said.
Alesi said Spitzer "relented on that."
When asked about his criticism of lawmakers' ethics later, Spitzer said, "The way I have said it to members of both chambers is all of us collectively ... have an obligation to respond to what is a very clear sentiment on the part of the public that we have to do better, that our standards have to be elevated and we have to demonstrate that we are acting for the public good."
Other Republicans said that they were heartened by Spitzer's emphasis on trying to revive the upstate economy, although he has yet to name an upstate economic-development "czar," as he has promised to do.
"It's obvious he's willing to take some bold steps and be aggressive," said Sen. Michael Nozzolio, R-Fayette, Seneca County.
With Pataki gone, some Republicans said they were looking forward to working with Spitzer.
"I think the members would like to have an easier work environment and not have the kind of difficulties we've had in budget negotiations and things like that," Alesi said. "We'd like to have real participation by a real governor with real leadership who can work with both houses."

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