Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie articulated an ambitious agenda for the upcoming legislative session in Albany.
Heastie, the leader of the New York State Assembly who represents Williamsbridge and Baychester, spoke of the chamber’s legislative goals in an interview with the Bronx Times on Thursday, January 7.
“It is a continuation of last year,” said the speaker of his agenda, adding “All elements of the agenda are important.”
Key to the Assembly Democrats for the new Albany session, which began on Wednesday, January 6 and lasts until June, is improving the situations of families through funding for childcare and education, as well as advocating for a higher minimum wage, the speaker said.
They are also focusing on trying to help with the plight of homelessness, and protecting middle class tax cuts, he said.
The Assembly Democrats will advocate for keeping the middle class tax breaks that were put into place during the recession, he confirmed.
“If we can get an agreement on that it will not only give middle class families or middle class workers a tax break, it will increase some revenue to spend on other things we think we think are priorities,” he said.
The assembly leadership will likely seek an extension of the higher tax rate on the wealthiest New Yorkers to pay for continuation of middle class tax cuts, according to published reports.
The legislator said that he would continue to advocate for the New York Dream Act, legislation yet to be passed that would allow the children of illegal immigrants to apply for college financial aid.
With Governor Cuomo raising the minimum wage at state colleges to $15 per hour recently, there is speculation that he may try to push for an even larger minimum wage than he had previously called for, according to published reports.
Heastie stressed that the Assembly initiated a bill to phase in a $15 statewide minimum before the governor started advocating for it at state universities.
He said that passing more minimum wage increase legislation would hinge on Cuomo’s as yet unreleased budget plans and the Republicans who control the state senate.
“Republicans don’t really want it and we will have to compromise on something they want,” he said.
Additional funding to help schools that have been failing will also be a priority he said.
The assemblyman also said he will work to increase funding for the Educational Opportunity Program, an initiative that helps college students succeed.
The speaker said that the state assembly will also continue to work with the rest of state government on ethics reform, and he highlighted what has already been done on the matter:
• a more stringent disclosure process on members with outside income;
• enhanced per diem reimbursement process where members now have to verify that they are in Albany;
• new limitations on the use of campaign funds;
• closing a loophole on Limited Liability Corporation campaign finance;
• coming to an agreement with the senate and the governor on pension forfeiture.
“That being said, we are still going to have a discussion on outside income: banning it, limiting it, whatever we can do so that legislators don’t have conflicts of interest,” he said of continued ethics reform.