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ALBANY'S POLITICS-AS-USUAL LEAVES VOTERS IN THE COLD

It is absolutely extraordinary the way these grown people carry on.

Look at some of the recent developments. There was the debacle in the State Senate -- controlled by the Republicans but shanghaied by the Democrats.

In the struggle over the budget, you will recall that Democratic members in the upper house refused to help pass the budget. That made the Republicans under Ralph Marino very angry. They knew that the Democrats would go around campaigning against GOP candidates, saying that the Republicans had, in fact, voted for higher taxes.

The Republicans, the Democrats allege, decided to give nothing back to their adversaries. That meant that the smallest Democratic bills would be ignored. The Democrats got even with one of the oldest parliamentary maneuvers, the stall, otherwise known as work stoppage or filibuster. They would talk the Republicans to death. The plan worked well.

Naturally, all those groups and local governments, which had decried the undemocratic way in which the Legislature has been run for years, now started having second thoughts. That's because the one thing you've really got to worry about is that the gentlemen and ladies of the Legislature have other business waiting at home.

They have wives and husbands who expect to start their summer vacations. Reservations have been made at quaint European inns. Law practices beckon with long and outstretched green arms. But most of all campaigning, the basis of the incumbent protection plan, cries out for attention. In many districts, if a lawmaker forgets to "come around," the constituents begin to believe that he's "forgotten who he is."

Part of the reason the Democratic members of the Senate put the freeze on, in addition to starting the gravy train moving, was to add to Majority Leader Marino's problems. Marino is still trying to cement his hold over his own Republican conference. So the Democrats probably hoped to cause a little social upheaval in the Republican ranks.

But most of all, the Democrats are doing it because of their feeling of utter powerlessness in their own house. After all, even Democrat Mario Cuomo didn't invite them to the table when the budget was being worked out. So they are angry and frustrated. Call it "minority party rage."

But sooner or later the Democrats will have to give it up. They will be pressured by the newspapers and portrayed as cry babies who are holding up progress. They will be yelled at by local governments and lobbyists who are afraid that their wish lists will be fouled up by the Democrats and they will have to contend with their own colleagues who would rather not be working during summer vacation.

As for the Republicans, they will have to give a little, too. To help the Democratic senators save face they will throw them a few bills and a little patronage. Ironically, no one will know about any of this and fewer will care. Those who do hear about it will shake their heads in wonderment and ask what the government is coming to. The kids aren't learning enough, there's drugs and crime in the street, there's racial tension you wouldn't believe and a bunch of grown up men and women are behaving like three-year-olds in a nursery trying to score meaningless points on one another.

Somewhere along the line, government stopped being for the people and started being by and for the politicians. One of these days instead of 50 percent of the people voting in an election 10 percent will vote in what people consider a meaningless and loaded game. Maybe then some of the good men and women of the Legislature, and there are many, will say, "It's time to get back to basics and run a government that was designed to help others."

The way it's going now, the players look like fools and the taxpayers are being played for fools.

ALAN S. CHARTOCK is an Albany-based commentator.

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