A lot of eyes are looking to the two majority conferences this year in the state legislature since this is the first time in 10 years that Democrats will lead both houses.
Assembly Democrats met for the first time on Wednesday to prepare for the legislative session.
The Assembly has 150 seats, and the Democrats now hold a 100 of those seats, meaning Democrats have a very strong hold on the majority. The Democrats met in Albany Wednesday and chose Speaker Carl Heastie as the majority leader again.
Heastie was elected Speaker, following Sheldon Silver’s indictment, in 2015.
Heastie, an Assemblyman from the Bronx, is very popular among members, but there are going to be a lot of challenges going into this next legislative year. At the top of the list will be the pay raise for lawmakers.
The pay commission decided to give lawmakers a raise over the next three years, but it came with the stipulation that lawmakers cannot receive outside income.
When Heastie came out of his meeting Wednesday night, he spoke about concerns he has about the limits that will be placed on lawmakers in order for them to receive a pay increase and even hinted at legal action.
“They were only supposed to look at the salaries,” he said.
Heastie said the intent of the legislature when they created the Pay Commission was for them to suggest a pay raise and then stop there. But now Heastie is not alone when he says it has gone too far.
He explained that the limits, especially on outside income, could trigger special elections across the state from lawmakers not willing or able to step aside from their business to continue serving in the legislature.
“Voters just a month ago elected a new legislature and now some people may have to make the decision whether they are going to serve again,” he said. “I don’t think that was right or fair. He didn’t even really give people the opportunity, so there are some technical problems we have identified.”
The only way it can be overturned is if lawmakers call a special session before the end of the year, which Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan seemed to somewhat hint to on Tuesday.
The only problem with this, however, is it then puts their pay raise in jeopardy.
“The state comptroller, Tom DiNapoli, in the hearing said we’re not we even have the right to do this,” he said. “So they now have decided to put questionable things into their decision, which can jeopardize the raises.”
Heastie also mentioned that he is very excited to be working with Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, who will be the Senate Majority Leader in the new year. He said that he looks forward to passing bills such as the Child Victims Act, the Dream Act, and reproductive health protections.