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Saturday, July 20, 2024


Aug. 29, 2002 – The Legislature's final day of budget-bill deliberations got off to a late and bumpy start.
Scheduled for 11 a.m. and then rescheduled for 1 p.m., the session got under way around 1:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Sen. President Almando "Rocky" Liburd announced that before hearing the bills, he would open the floor for amendments, one from each senator.
Sen. Adelbert Bryan immediately objected, embarking on a disruptive performance in keeping with his behavior at Senate meetings earlier in the week. He was soon upstaged, however, by Sens. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg and Celestino A. White Sr.
Donastorg predictably offered as his amendment his proposal to reduce the size of the Legislature from 15 members to nine. His colleagues voted the measure down last year, although a referendum two years ago calling for a reduction in the number of senators received overwhelming support from voters.
White objected to Donastorg bringing the proposal to the floor again. For Donastorg, who is known to be dogged in pursuit of issues he cares about, it was a matter of making good on his promise last year not to let the issue die.
"We defeated it; it's dead," White said. "It should go to the funeral home of your choice." He and Donastorg exchanged barbs, accusing each other of politicking and grandstanding before the coming elections.
The amendment was defeated on a vote of 9 to 6 – and, oddly, one of the votes in favor was White's.
That's when things became anything but funereal. White denied that he had voted "yes." The session came to a dead halt for more than 15 minutes as the senators had the reporter play back her transcript. The official printed roll call recorded a "yes" vote, and that was how it sounded to reporters; finally, the reporter's transcript showed a "yes" vote, as well.
Meantime, both White and Donastorg prowled the Senate floor, kibitzing with colleagues. Donastorg said he believed White thought the measure was headed for defeat anyway, so what difference would his vote make?
Also voting for the measure were Sens. Lorraine Berry, Douglas Canton, Roosevelt David, Donastorg and Vargrave Richards. Sens. Bryan, Donald "Ducks" Cole, Carlton Dowe, Alicia "Chucky" Hansen, Emmett Hansen II, Norman Jn Baptiste, David Jones, Liburd and Norma Pickard-Samuel voted "no." Hansen II and Pickard-Samuel had co-sponsored the original legislation.
After the senators got back down to business, White made a show of registering his votes in favor by sounding out the letters Y-E-S.
In the November 2000 election, about 87 percent of those voting on the referendum calling for reducing the makeup of the Senate supported the idea, with 12,589 favoring a body of nine members and 2,826 specifying a body of 11.
Most senators except for Donastorg have been reluctant to acknowledge the mandate, pointing to opinions by the attorney general and the supervisor of elections that a referendum is not binding. Donastorg, however, pledged after last year's defeat of his bill, "I'm not going to let the issue die. I think the voters need to be respected."

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