The New York State Senate is the upper house of the New York State Legislature, the New York State Assembly being the lower house. It has 63 members each elected to two-year terms. There are no limits on the number of terms one may serve. The New York Constitution provides for a varying number of members in the Senate, elected from single-member constituencies equal in population. The current format for apportionment has followed the Supreme Court decision in Baker v. Carr, decided in 1964.
Democrats won 32 of 62 seats in New York's upper chamber in the 2008 General Election on November 4, capturing the majority for the first time in more than four decades. Previously, the Republicans had held the chamber for all but one year from 1939 to 2008, even as New York turned almost solidly Democratic at all levels.
However, a power struggle emerged before the new term began. Four Democratic senators—Rubén Díaz Sr. (Bronx), Carl Kruger (Brooklyn), Pedro Espada, Jr. (Bronx), and Hiram Monserrate (Queens)—immediately refused to caucus with their party. The self-named "Gang of Four" refused to back Malcolm Smith (Queens) as the chamber's majority leader and sought concessions. Monserrate soon reached an agreement with Smith that reportedly included the chairmanship of the Consumer Affairs Committee. The remaining "Gang of Three" reached an initial compromise in early December that collapsed within a week, but was ultimately resolved with Smith becoming majority leader until early June 2009, when two Democrats joined with Republicans to elect a new leadership for the New York State Senate, reaching a power-sharing deal under which Republicans became, again, technically the majority party.
Though there were 32 Democrats and 30 Republicans in the Senate, on June 8, 2009, then-Senators Hiram Monserrate and Pedro Espada, Jr.—who were part of what was described by the Associated Press as a "parliamentary coup"—allegedly voted with the 30 Republican members to install Senator Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) as the new majority leader of the Senate, replacing Malcolm Smith.
The move came after Republican whip Tom Libous introduced a surprise resolution to vacate the chair and replace Smith as temporary president and majority leader. In an effort to stop the vote, Democratic whip Jeff Klein (Bronx) unilaterally moved to recess, and Smith had the lights and Internet cut off. However, they were unable to stop the session. All 30 Republicans plus two Democrats, Monserrate and Espada, voted in favor of the resolution. In accordance with a prearranged deal, Espada was elected temporary president and acting lieutenant governor while Skelos was elected majority leader. Both Monserrate and Espada were members of the original "Gang of Four" (the other two being Díaz, Sr. and Kruger), a group of Democratic senators that threatened to defect to the Republican caucus to prevent Smith from taking control of the chamber in January 2009. Monserrate had backed out of the Gang at the time, being the first of the four to back Smith.
The apparent Republican seizure of power was tenuous in any event. Smith claimed the vote was illegal because of Klein's motion to adjourn; parliamentary procedure stipulates that a vote to adjourn takes precedence over all other business. However, Smith, Klein, and most of the Democrats walked out before an actual vote to adjourn could be taken. Smith has also claimed that it is illegal to oust the majority leader in the middle of a two-year term, and as such, leaders can only be replaced at the beginning of a term, except in the case of death or resignation. Smith still asserted he was majority leader and would challenge the vote in court. He locked the doors of the state senate chambers in an effort to prevent any further legislative action. The Espada-Skelos coalition majority, which also courted as many as ten more Democrats, announced plans to hold sessions in the "Well" of the legislative office building until chamber doors are reopened. By the time of the scheduled session on June 10 at 3:00 p.m., at the request of Governor David Paterson, the keys to the senate chamber were turned over to the coalition; Smith has claimed that the coalition stole the key. The scheduled session was eventually postponed.
Both Monserrate and Espada faced accusations of unethical or criminal conduct. Monserrate was indicted for felony assault in March and would have automatically lost his seat if convicted. New York, like most states, has a provision in its state constitution which bars convicted felons from holding office. (Monseratte would be acquitted of the felonies, but was convicted on misdemeanors.) Espada was the target of a state investigation into whether he funded his campaign with money siphoned from a nonprofit health care agency he controls. The Bronx County District Attorney's office was also investigating charges that Espada actually resided in Mamaroneck, Westchester County rather than the north Bronx district he represented.
As a result of the coup, Senate Democrats voted for John Sampson (D-Brooklyn) to replace Smith as Democratic Leader. This led Monserrate to declare that he would once again caucus with the Democrats, which led to a 31–31 split.
On July 9, 2009, a source stated that Espada would be rejoining the Senate Democratic Conference after reaching a deal to have Smith be pro tem president until a "transition period" during which Senator Sampson would ascend to the Senate's Temporary Presidency. The term expired with Smith still as Temporary President. Democrats orchestrated the removal of both Espada and Monserrate from their ranks; the Senate voted to expel Monserrate, while Espada was defeated in a primary election that had the state party back his primary opponent, Gustavo Rivera.
The Republicans regained control of the Senate with a 32-30 majority after the 2010 elections. Just before the new chamber convened in January 2011, four Democrats, led by former Democratic whip Klein, broke away from the main Democratic Conference to form an Independent Democratic Conference (IDC). Klein said that he and his three colleagues could no longer support the leadership of Senate Democratic Leader John Sampson.
Following the 2010 census, New York redistricted the Senate, expanding it from 62 to 63 seats effective in January 2013. When all election night results were tabulated on November 6, 2012, Democrats held a total of 33 seats for a three-seat majority--just their third Senate majority since World War II. However, on December 4, 2012, it was announced that Senate Republicans had reached a power-sharing deal with the four-member Independent Democratic Conference (IDC); the IDC had previously defected from the Democratic leadership. Under the agreement, Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos and Senate IDC Leader Jeff Klein would alternate daily in the role of Temporary President of the Senate. Together, the Senate Republicans and the IDC held enough seats to form a governing majority; that majority was augmented when freshman Sen. Simcha Felder of Brooklyn, who was elected on the Republican, Conservative and Democratic Party lines, chose to join the Senate Republican Conference. Also, former Democratic Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith joined the Independent Democrats, only to be expelled from the conference in April 2013 due to a scandal in which Smith attempted to bribe the Republican Party chairs in New York City for a Wilson Pakula to run in the upcoming New York City mayoral election. (The previous Senate Minority Leader, Sen. John L. Sampson, was expelled from his conference on May 6, 2013 following his arrest on corruption charges.)
Senate District 46 was embroiled in a recount when the new Senate was sworn in and the then-leading candidate, Republican George Amedore, became a New York state senator. After the recount was completed, Amedore lost by 18 votes to Democrat Cecilia Tkaczyk, making him the shortest-serving senator in modern New York history and the loser of the state's second-closest Senate race. Amedore would eventually win a rematch with Tkaczyk in 2014.
In 2014, the Independent Democratic Conference announced that they would end their political alliance with the Republicans and create a new one with the Senate Democratic Conference, citing a need "to fight for the core Democratic policies that are left undone." In the 2014 elections, Senate Republicans retook an outright majority in the Senate, and the IDC reneged on its deal with the Democrats and remained allied with the Senate Republican Conference.
On May 4, 2015, Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara, announced the arrest of Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, along with his son, and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. Within days, Skelos announced that he was stepping down as leader of the Republican Caucus and as Majority Leader. Senator John Flanagan, of Suffolk County, became the new Majority Leader, and the first Majority Leader from Suffolk County. After Skelos was convicted in December 2015, his seat was declared vacant, with a special election to be held on the presidential primary of 2016. The special election was won by Democrat Todd Kaminsky, resulting in the Democratic Party having a numerical 32-31 advantage over the Republicans in the State Senate. Despite this, Senator Felder and the members of the IDC chose to remain in coalition with the Republican majority.
Late in 2016, Senator Jesse Hamilton announced his intention to join the IDC if re-elected. Hamilton, in his first election in 2014, was aided by the Independent Democrats, which had resulted in speculation he would eventually join the caucus.
After all 2016 election results were announced, Senate Republicans lost one seat on Long Island and gained an upstate seat in Buffalo. On Long Island, freshman Sen. Michael Venditto was defeated in a close race by Democrat John Brooks. In Buffalo, the open seat vacated by Democratic Sen. Mark Panepinto (who did not seek re-election) was won by Republican Erie County Clerk Chris Jacobs. Sen. Simcha Felder, who tied for most conservative member of the Senate according to the Conservative Party in 2016, announced that he would continue to caucus with the GOP, ensuring that the Republicans would retain control of the Senate by a margin of 32-31.
Liberal groups in New York State, including the Working Families Party, called on the governor to intervene and pressure Sen. Felder, the IDC, and the Senate Democratic Conference to unite to make New York a united one-party government in opposition to President-elect Donald Trump's incoming administration. Klein criticized those groups along with Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins for lack of outreach as well as for calling on the governor to intervene in a separate branch of government. On January 2, 2017, Senate Majority Leader Flanagan and Senate IDC Leader Klein announced the continuation of their coalition; together, the two conferences held 38 Senate seats. Klein, in his statement to the press, stated that the coalition allows for bipartisan legislation getting passed and pragmatic progressive ideas to be brought to the table. The Republicans retained control with 32 votes including every Senator elected as a Republican and the IDC.
On April 4, 2018, a deal was announced to dissolve the IDC and have its members rejoin the Democratic Caucus with Stewart-Cousins as Democratic Leader and Klein as Deputy leader. This brought the power distribution to 32 Republicans (including support from Democratic Simcha Felder), 29 Democrats and two vacant seats. 
The Senate was dominated by the Republican Party for much of the 20th century. Since World War II, the Democrats have only controlled the upper house twice. The first time came in 1965, after the 1964 Presidential Election only for them to lose it in special elections that year. The second time again came to power following the 2008 elections on the coattails of the victory of President Barack Obama. In mid-2009, dissatisfaction by some Democrats in the State Senate along with billionaire Tom Golisano, over the leadership of Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith resulted in 2 Democratic Senators joining with the entire Republican caucus to install Senator Dean Skelos as Majority Leader and Temporary President. Over the month of June and July the Senate was mired in a leadership crisis that ended with the breakaway Democrats rejoining the caucus in late July. The Democrats maintained their majority throughout the remainder of the 2009–2010 session. Following state elections in 2010, Republicans were able to gain the two seats necessary to again reclaim the majority.
The Senate's apportionment has traditionally favored Upstate due to the state constitution's original method of giving each county, even sparsely populated ones, at least one senator (a practice that mirrored the United States Senate's approach to give each state the same number of senators). This changed with Baker v. Carr (1962) and Reynolds v. Sims (1964), in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a "one man, one vote" system of state legislative apportionment is constitutionally required. Since then, in redistricting, the Senate has traditionally overrepresented upstate in exchange for the Assembly overrepresenting downstate (each legislative district is allowed up to 5% deviation from the average district population; the state legislature systemically uses this leeway to create less populous Senate districts upstate and more populous ones downstate, and vice versa in the Assembly).
State Senate seats in New York City are typically held by Democrats, while Senate seats outside New York City are typically held by Republicans. As of the start of the 2018 session, enrolled Republicans held only two seats in New York City: District 22 (Sen. Marty Golden, R-Brooklyn) and District 24 (Sen. Andrew Lanza, R-Staten Island). However, enrolled Democrats held only three seats north of Westchester County: Districts 44 (Sen. Neil Breslin), 53 (Sen. David Valesky), and 63 (Sen. Tim Kennedy). Furthermore, enrolled Democrats held only two of the nine Long Island Senate seats: District 8 (Sen. John Brooks) and District 9 (Sen. Todd Kaminsky). Eight of the enrolled Democrats were members of the Independent Democratic Conference, and another (Sen. Simcha Felder, D-Brooklyn) caucused with the Republicans after being elected on the Republican Party line.
(Shading indicates majority caucus)
|Begin 2013 session||28||4||1||30||63||0|
|Begin 2015 session||24||1||5||1||32||63||0|
|July 1, 2016||25||31||62||1|
|Begin 2017 session||24||7||1||31||63||0|
|January 25, 2017||23||8|
|February 15, 2017||22||62||1|
|May 23, 2017||23||63||0|
|Aug. 9, 2017||22||62||1|
|Nov. 7, 2017||23||63||0|
|January 1, 2018||21||61||2|
|April 4, 2018||29|
|Latest voting share||47.54%||52.46%|
The Senate is headed by its President, a post held ex officio by the Lieutenant Governor. The Senate President has a casting vote in the event of a tie, but otherwise may not vote. More often, the Senate is presided over by the Temporary President, a post which is normally also held by the Majority Leader. After the 2008 elections, the Senate had a Democratic majority for the first time since 1965. They lost that majority on November 2, 2010, when Republican Jack Martins defeated Democratic Senator Craig Johnson and former Senator, now Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin, defeated Democrat Brian Foley. Following the defections of Jeffrey Klein, David Valesky and Diane Savino from the Democratic caucus, the trio joined freshman David Carlucci in a newly formed Independent Conference; this conference serves as "crossbenchers" separate from the Democratic and Republican conferences.
The Senate has one additional officer outside those who are elected by the people: the Secretary of the Senate is a post that is chosen by a majority vote of the senators, and does not have voting power (he/she is allowed, though officially discouraged, from discussing and negotiating legislative matters). The Secretary of the Senate is responsible for administering the Senate's office space, overseeing the handling of bills and the oversight of the sergeants-at-arms and the stenographer. The position is currently held by Frank Patience, who was elected to a two-year position in January 2011.
|President of the Senate/Lieutenant Governor||Kathy C. Hochul||Dem|
|Temporary President||John J. Flanagan||Rep||2|
|Republican Conference leader||John J. Flanagan||Rep||2|
|Democratic Conference leader||Andrea Stewart-Cousins||Dem||35|
|Independent Democratic Conference leader||Jeffrey Klein||IDC||34|
|District||Senator||Party||First elected||Counties Represented|
|1||LaValle, Kenneth P.Kenneth P. LaValle||Republican||1976||Suffolk|
|2||Flanagan, John J.John J. Flanagan||Republican||2002||Suffolk|
|3||Croci, ThomasThomas Croci||Republican||2014||Suffolk|
|4||Boyle, Philip M.Philip M. Boyle||Republican||2012||Suffolk|
|5||Marcellino, Carl L.Carl L. Marcellino||Republican||1995*||Nassau, Suffolk|
|6||Hannon, KempKemp Hannon||Republican||1989*||Nassau|
|7||Phillips, ElaineElaine Phillips||Republican||2016||Nassau|
|8||Brooks, JohnJohn Brooks||Democratic||2016||Nassau, Suffolk|
|9||Kaminsky, ToddTodd Kaminsky||Democratic||2016*||Nassau|
|10||Sanders, Jr., JamesJames Sanders, Jr.||Democratic||2012||Queens|
|11||Avella, TonyTony Avella||Democratic||2010||Queens|
|12||Gianaris, Michael N.Michael N. Gianaris||Democratic||2010||Queens|
|13||Peralta, JoseJose Peralta||Democratic||2010*||Queens|
|14||Comrie, LeroyLeroy Comrie||Democratic||2014||Queens|
|15||Addabbo, Jr., JosephJoseph Addabbo, Jr.||Democratic||2008||Queens|
|16||Stavisky, Toby AnnToby Ann Stavisky||Democratic||1999*||Queens|
|17||Felder, SimchaSimcha Felder||Democratic||2012||Kings (Brooklyn)|
|18||Dilan, Martin MalaveMartin Malave Dilan||Democratic||2002||Kings|
|19||Persaud, RoxanneRoxanne Persaud||Democratic||2015*||Kings|
|20||Hamilton, JesseJesse Hamilton||Democratic||2014||Kings|
|21||Parker, Kevin S.Kevin S. Parker||Democratic||2002||Kings|
|22||Golden, Martin J.Martin J. Golden||Republican||2002||Kings|
|23||Savino, DianeDiane Savino||Democratic||2004||Kings, Richmond (Staten Island)|
|24||Lanza, Andrew J.Andrew J. Lanza||Republican||2006||Richmond|
|25||Montgomery, VelmanetteVelmanette Montgomery||Democratic||1984||Kings|
|26||Kavanagh, BrianBrian Kavanagh||Democratic||2017*||Kings, New York (Manhattan)|
|27||Hoylman, BradBrad Hoylman||Democratic||2012||New York|
|28||Krueger, LizLiz Krueger||Democratic||2002*||New York|
|29||Serrano, Jose M.Jose M. Serrano||Democratic||2004||New York, Bronx|
|30||Benjamin, BrianBrian Benjamin||Democratic||2017*||New York|
|31||Alcantara, MarisolMarisol Alcantara||Democratic||2016||New York|
|33||Rivera, GustavoGustavo Rivera||Democratic||2010||Bronx|
|34||Klein, Jeffrey D.Jeffrey D. Klein||Democratic||2004||Bronx, Westchester|
|35||Stewart-Cousins, AndreaAndrea Stewart-Cousins||Democratic||2006||Westchester|
|36||Bailey, JamaalJamaal Bailey||Democratic||2016||Bronx, Westchester|
|38||Carlucci, DavidDavid Carlucci||Democratic||2010||Rockland, Westchester|
|39||Larkin, Jr., William J.William J. Larkin, Jr.||Republican||1990||Orange, Rockland, Ulster|
|40||Murphy, Terrence P.Terrence P. Murphy||Republican||2014||Dutchess, Putnam, Westchester|
|41||Serino, Susan J.Susan J. Serino||Republican||2014||Dutchess, Putnam|
|42||Bonacic, John J.John J. Bonacic||Republican||1998||Delaware, Orange, Sullivan, Ulster|
|43||Marchione, Kathleen A.Kathleen A. Marchione||Republican||2012||Columbia, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Washington|
|44||Breslin, NeilNeil Breslin||Democratic||1996||Albany, Rensselaer|
|45||Little, BettyBetty Little||Republican||2002||Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Saint Lawrence, Warren, Washington|
|46||Amedore, Jr., George A.George A. Amedore, Jr.||Republican||2014||Albany, Greene, Montgomery, Schenectady, Ulster|
|47||Griffo, JosephJoseph Griffo||Republican||2006||Lewis, Oneida, St. Lawrence|
|48||Ritchie, PattyPatty Ritchie||Republican||2010||Jefferson, Oswego, St. Lawrence|
|49||Tedisco, JimJim Tedisco||Republican||2016||Fulton, Hamilton, Herkimer, Saratoga, Schenectady|
|50||DeFrancisco, JohnJohn DeFrancisco||Republican||1992||Cayuga, Onondaga|
|51||Seward, JamesJames Seward||Republican||1986||Cayuga, Chenango, Cortland, Delaware, Herkimer, Otsego, Schoharie, Tompkins, Ulster|
|52||Akshar, FredFred Akshar||Republican||2015*||Broome, Chenango, Delaware, Tioga|
|53||Valesky, DavidDavid Valesky||Democratic||2004||Madison, Oneida, Onondaga|
|54||Helming, PamPam Helming||Republican||2016||Cayuga, Monroe, Ontario, Seneca, Tompkins, Wayne|
|55||Funke, RichardRichard Funke||Republican||2014||Monroe, Ontario|
|56||Robach, JosephJoseph Robach||Republican||2002||Monroe|
|57||Young, CatharineCatharine Young||Republican||2005*||Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Livingston|
|58||O'Mara, TomTom O'Mara||Republican||2010||Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Tompkins, Yates|
|59||Gallivan, PatrickPatrick Gallivan||Republican||2010||Erie, Livingston, Monroe, Wyoming|
|60||Jacobs, ChrisChris Jacobs||Republican||2016||Erie|
|61||Ranzenhofer, Michael H.Michael H. Ranzenhofer||Republican||2008||Erie, Genesee, Monroe|
|62||Ortt, Robert G.Robert G. Ortt||Republican||2014||Monroe, Niagara, Orleans|
|63||Kennedy, Timothy M.Timothy M. Kennedy||Democratic||2010||Erie|
* Elected in a special election
As of January 2018, the State Senate committee chairs were as follows (committee chairs are Republican unless otherwise noted):