The talking points from Senate Republicans and the Independent Democratic Conference justifying the arrangement in which non-committee chairs are paid stipends normally designated for those jobs breaks down in two broad categories:

1. No one ever misrepresented the senators as committee chairs.

2. Paying stipends to vice chairs is entirely within the legislative law.

At first blush, both of those claims are in conflict. After all, if the Senate could indeed pay vice chairs a stipend, then why have the legislators — seven in total, though one is giving the money back — be classified in official documentation as committee chairs?

On the first question, the answer lies in how the Senate believes pay documents sent to the comptroller’s office should be understood. To their mind, the documents do not falsely show senators as committee chairs on a “payroll” document, but is a “pay schedule” showing which lawmaker should receive which stipend. So, for instance, Sen. David Valesky is not being listed officially as the Senate Health Committee chair, but is being scheduled to receive the stipend for that job.

On the second, the Senate is relying on its legal interpretation of Legislative Law 5-A, which spells out who gets which stipend. While the law doesn’t mention vice chairs, the Senate Republican conference is leaning on its legal memo released Saturday that says the spending is up to the temporary president of the Senate, in this case John Flanagan.

Mainline Senate Democrats disagree with this way of looking at Legislative Law 5-A, writing in a legal memo of their own the GOP argument essentially undermines the entire law.

“If the GOP-IDC interpretation is applied, there would be no control whatsoever over the legislature’s spending other than the whim of the Temporary President of the Senate,” the memo released on Monday stated. “{This would be an open invitation to further corruption and cannot possibly be allowed to stand. Our laws apply to everyone, including the legislature.”

Senate Records by Nick Reisman on Scribd