COOPERSTOWN -- What a difference a day makes.
One day after leading a failed effort to spike a proposed endorsement of legislation that would empower local communities to zone out gas drilling, Otsego County Rep. James Powers, R-Butternuts, said Tuesday he'd now like to have the full county board vote on the measure.
The pivot by Powers comes as the Board of Representatives prepares for its final meeting of 2011 at 6 p.m today.*
Powers said he will press to have the board take up the resolution backing home rule legislation authored by Sen. James Seward, R-Milford, tonight because he wants to spare incoming board members from a nasty political clash when they take office Jan. 1.
That's a significant difference from the timetable called for by Rep. Rich Murphy, D-town of Oneonta, who called for the county board to take up the issue in January.
Powers, elaborating on his new stance, told The Daily Star: "The point is, certain people set this up and want to leave it for people who aren't on the board yet. You need to make the people who set this up vote on it."
He added: "I don't want to start the new year with a huge floor fight. It's not fair to the new people to put them on the spot right from the get-go."
He also said he expects his side will lose the vote -- meaning, he anticipates the board would go on the public record in support of Seward's bill.
On Monday, the county board's solid waste and environmental concerns committee voted, 3 to 2, in support of the resolution backing the home-rule bill. Powers, the chairman of that committee, and Rep. Keith McCarty, R-East Springfield, voted against it. But board Chairman Floyd "Sam" Dubben, R-Middlefield, sided with Murphy and Rep. Linda Rowinski, D-Oneonta, in approving the resolution.
Murphy told The Daily Star he will oppose Powers' effort to have the issue come to the floor tonight because he expects at least two board members will be absent and the seat of the late Rep. Martha Stayton remains unfilled until Jan. 1. When the board is fully constituted, it will have 14 members.
"To attempt an earlier than intended vote without full participation serves neither the resolution, the board nor the county well," Murphy said.
He also questioned Powers' stated reasoning of wishing to avoid a quarrelsome opening meeting for incoming board members.
"He's making a fight and a discussion synonymous, and I disagree," Murphy said.
The decision on whether it goes to the floor could hinge on Dubben's position. On Tuesday, the chairman said he was not ready to broach his stance.
"I don't want to sway anybody one way or the other" before the meeting, Dubben said.
*Editor's note: This story was edited at 2:40 p.m. Dec. 21 to correct the time of the county board meeting.