From the Morning Memo:

Assembly Democrats will be returning to the Capitol today and staying through tomorrow – their effort toward trying to get agreed-on budget bills into print before midnight Saturday in order to meet the three-day aging requirement and hit the April 1 deadline.

The fact that members of the majority conference will be sicking around in Albany on a Friday night is worth noting as yet another example of just how much things have changed in the post-Sheldon Silver era.

Silver, as longtime Capitol watchers are well aware, is an observant Jew. That meant he was routinely out of pocket from sundown Friday until sundown Saturday in order to observe the Jewish sabbath known as Shabbat.

Though central staffers worked through this 24-hour pause, no significant decisions could be made until Silver checked back in on Saturday night. And, as such, the members of his conference generally took a break right along with him.

It was not unusual for complaints to be lodged over someone trying to jam the Assembly just before – or worse, during – Shabbat, knowing the speaker would have a difficult time responding until his religious obligations were fulfilled.

Silver’s replacement, Carl Heastie, is not Jewish, and so is not held to the same negotiating constraints as his predecessor. He’ll be working through Friday and into Saturday, right along with his members, who are expected to attended closed-door conferences.

During a CapTon interview last night, Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle acknowledged that this is a significant shift, though he also said accommodations will be made for observant Jewish rank-and-filers – of which Silver is now one. They will not be expected to attend conference, he said, and materials will be provided to them to keep them abreast of developments in budget talks (assuming any breakthroughs are made).

Working weekends is just a small example of the seismic shift that has taken place in the Assembly.

Lobbyists, lawmakers and staffers who have long been involved in the budget back-and-forth all admit that this year is vastly different in large part due to the change in leadership style between Heastie and Silver.

Mindful of the unhappiness among rank-and-file lawmakers about Silver’s top-down management technique, Heastie has been careful to involve his conference as much as possible as he tries to negotiate his first ever budget deal with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos.

This empowerment has been good for legislators – and also for lobbyists and activists who were quick to adapt to the new reality – but it has also slowed the pace of budget talks considerably, participants admitted.

Add to that Cuomo’s newfound sensitivity to the highly public criticism from US Attorney Preet Bharara and others of the traditional “three-men-in-a-room” budget negotiation model, which has led to the governor’s unusual in-person visits to the Capitol’s third floor, and you get the diffuse and sometimes chaotic situation that we’ve witnessed over the past several days.

For a while there, proposals were falling off the table and being put back on so quickly, it was often hard to tell where things stood.

It looks like legislative leaders and the governor are making progress, however.

They’re reportedly close to an ethics disclosure deal – though it should be noted that the word “close” has been employed for a good 48 hours now. Already, good government groups are criticizing what they’ve seen, with NYPIRG’s Blair Horner publicly panning the reforms under consideration as “weak tea.”

Education continues to be a sticking point, with a lot of finger-pointing and chest-beating over the apparent loss of the DREAM Act and Education Investment Tax Credit, though several eleventh-hour compromise solutions have been floated.

The teacher evaluation system also remains an open question. The independent commission idea looks to be dead, and talk is now centered on getting the Board of Regents to propose changes before the session ends in June. Neither the Assembly Democrats nor the Senate Republicans like the idea of tying the changes to state school aid, which could force districts to hold their May budget votes without a clear picture of how much support they’ll be getting from the state.

Morelle noted last night that districts have been in this place before, thanks to Albany’s decades-long history of late budgets. No one wants to return to those bad old days, he said.

As for the governor, he made no appearances yesterday, but issued yet another lengthy statement insisting he won’t sign off on more state education aid unless the budget includes reforms that address “accountability, performance and standards.” Cuomo also said he’s standing firm on ethics reform, and called debate over the inclusion of policy proposals in the budget a “red herring.”