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Saturday 22 February 2020
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Assembly Names Carl Heastie as First African-American Speaker

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By Staff

carl_heastieNew York State Assemblyman Carl Heastie, D-Bronx, was elected the first African-American speaker of the Assembly in its 238-year history, Tuesday.

Heastie will replace former Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver, who resigned last month after being charged with receiving nearly $4 million in kickbacks.

“We will change the cynicism into trust,” Heastie said in his acceptance speech. “Our state deserves a government as good as its people.”

In addition, Heastie noted the Assembly had been scheduled to take up a resolution honoring Martin Luther King Jr. Tuesday.

“Thank you, Dr. King, for making this day possible,” he stated.

Democrats hold a majority in the chamber, and Heastie won the spot effortlessly over Republican Minority Leader Brian Kolb.

Additionally, members of the Assembly applauded Heastie after placing their votes Tuesday afternoon.

As speaker, the 47-year-old will be fourth in line from Gov. Andrew Cuomo; and the job will include directing the flow of legislation; setting committee assignments; as well as directing budget negotiations with the governor, and the state Senate, according to reports.

Four other Assembly members had initially sought the role, but ultimately threw their support behind Heastie, as he became a favorite amongst Assembly Democrats.

Following the vote, interim speaker and Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle, D-Irondequoit, stated, “Godspeed, Carl Heastie,” via Twitter.

Morelle had hoped to become the Assembly’s first Upstate New York speaker since 1911.

However, he said his heart “was filled with joy,” due to the fact the Assembly had chosen its first African American speaker.

In addition, Queens Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan, who would have been the first woman elected to the role of speaker had she won, conceded she did not have enough votes to win Monday, after Democrats decided to vote unanimously for Heastie.

“We made a commitment to a more transparent process,” Nolan stated, “and it was a lost opportunity. But I’m not ashamed to say I lost. I did the best I could.”

A former accountant, Heastie has been in the Assembly since 2000.

He has led the Assembly’s Labor Committee for the past two years, and also leads the Bronx Democratic County Committee, a position from which he said he will resign, now that he’s been elected speaker.

Monday, Heastie unveiled a plan for ethics reform, and proposed a new Office of Ethics and Compliance, which he said should be led by a non-legislator, as well as limits on how much outside income lawmakers can earn.

In addition, according to his latest ethics filing, Heastie’s only outside income is $5,000 he makes as an adjunct professor at Monroe College, and he has $21,000 to $50,000 in credit card debt.