ONEONTA _ The nearly five weeks of turmoil in the state Senate sparked by the June 8 Republican-led coup was worth it, according to the senator who represents Otsego County.

Despite "chaotic moments" and widespread public disapproval of the gridlock, state Sen. James Seward, R-Milford, said changes in the way the Senate operates will benefit the residents of the 51st Senate District.

"I am now in a much better position to serve my constituents," Seward said while meeting Tuesday with The Daily Star editorial board. "We made some significant changes."

Democrats, who took control of the Senate in January with a 32-30 majority, lost power after two of their own sided with Republican senators in an overthrow of former Majority Leader Malcolm Smith of Queens.

"Frankly, I thought there were going to be more (Democrats)," Seward said of participants in the coup, which was backed by Paychex founder, Buffalo Sabres owner and former gubernatorial candidate Tom Golisano.

One of the Democrat defectors, Sen. Hiram Monserrate of Queens, reversed his allegiance a few days later, leaving the Senate deadlocked at 31-31 for weeks. Sen. Pedro Espada, D-Bronx, returned to the Democratic fold July 9, ending the stalemate.

Seward, a 23-year veteran of the Senate, said a power-sharing agreement between Republicans and Democrats was nearly reached just before Espada's return to the Democrats.

The Democrats then voted Espada as majority leader, Smith as president pro tem and Sen. John Sampson, of Brooklyn, as Democratic conference chairman.

Before this year, Senate Republicans had enjoyed seven decades of nearly uninterrupted dominance.

The state Assembly, led by Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, has had a Democratic majority for three decades, and Democratic Gov. David Paterson is also from New York City.

Seward said going from being a majority senator to a minority senator has been a "roller-coaster ride."

That transition has come amid other changes in Albany in recent years _ including the resignations of former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, former Comptroller Alan Hevesi and former Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno _ and the Wall Street financial crisis.

"This year, I have learned a lot," Seward said. "It's the first time I have served when there has been one-party control."

With one party in power, he said, there has been an absence of checks and balances.

"I think we saw it this year in terms of the budget process, the most-secretive ever," Seward said. "This year, we really had three men in a room,' very secretive, three men from one municipality in the state _ New York City, same party _ and I think it was a very unhealthy process."

Seward: Changes will improve Senate

Seward said that although the Senate GOP remains in the minority, significant rule changes were passed last week that will improve the operation of the Senate.

Those changes give less power to leaders and more rank-and-file senators.

They include term limits for committee chairmen and leadership positions; an allowance that 38 senators can bring a bill to the floor for a vote; and the ability of individual committee members and bill sponsors to set agendas for committee meetings, Seward said.

There will also be more equitable distribution of funding for member items, he said.

When the GOP became the minority party in the Senate this year, Seward's member-item budget was cut by 75 percent, and his staff was reduced by 40 percent.

Trending Video