Meet the new Independent Conference of the state Senate, or, if you prefer, the new amigos.

They are, as it turns out, four: Sens. Jeff Klein, Diane Savino, David Carlucci and David Valesky. They will be voting “no” today on the resolutions to elect John Sampson as the minority leader AND Dean Skelos as the majority leader.


Recall that there were four amigos once upon a time, too: Sens. Pedro Espada, Hiram Monserrate, Ruben Diaz Sr. and Carl Kruger…but that’s about where the similarities here end.

Whereas the old amigos continued to be part of the Democratic conference, this foursome is actually breaking away from their colleagues to form a separate entity that will caucus on its own.

Klein went out of his way to reject any connections between the Espada-Monserrate coup last summer that ended up holding the Senate hostage for 31 days during the summer of 2009. He stressed that he and his colleagues are Democrats who remain committed to Democratic principles.

“This isn’t a power play,” he insisted. “This isn’t a replay of past events where individuals lost their way and held us hostage…This is not about the right price, this is about the right thing…I think the time has come to bring a functioning Legislature back.”

Savino said the old amigos wanted power for themselves, adding: “We’re not looking to undo the will of the voters…There’s a very big difference between what they did and what we’re doing. This is not about us.”

She also noted that all but Carlucci are taking a pay cut (presumably because they won’t get ranking positions on committees, and therefore won’t have lulus).

Klein expressed support for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s agenda – particularly the 2 percent property tax cap – but said he had not been encouraged by the governor (who, it should be noted, is very big on post-partisanship) to form this new caucus.

(Recall that there had been ample speculation during the campaign that Cuomo would move to oust Sampson from the minority leadership if the Democrats lost control of the chamber, largely because the AEG scandal didn’t mesh with Cuomo’s mantra of reform).

Klein called Cuomo a “very old friend of mine,” and said he had called the governor 10 minutes prior to this morning’s press conference to inform him of the new caucus. “(The governor is) very supportive of each and every one of us,” Klein said. “…He was very supportive of Democrats with a common purpose.”

Valesky, who was the lone senator to vote “no” during the November 2010 vote of confidence for Sampson, said the point here is to “get the three men in the room out of the room.”

He said he was moved to join forces with his three colleagues because he was fed up with Sampson’s “mismanagement and poor decisions of which I had no knowledge or input.”

(Interesting aside for insiders: Klein has a new staffer, Rich Azzopardi, who used to work for former Sen. Craig Johnson, a Klein loyalist who lost to Republican Jack Martins in a very close election).

The new caucus has four main agenda items: Fiscal reform and property tax relief, “smart” economic development and job creation, “strong new ethics standards” and protecting woman’s right to choose.

NOTE: I have been informed that this is a conference, not a caucus, (there is a organizational difference between the two) and it will be recognized from the floor this morning by the majority leader, which is why Klein was in touch with Sen. Tom Libous, ostensibly, and not Sampson, prior to this announcement.