It’s the first day of the session, but lawmakers are not wasting any time.
The day started off with new Senators and Assembly members being sworn in. Making history, Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins was formally elected Senate Majority Leader, becoming the first African American woman to lead a majority conference.
“We have 14 women in our conference!” Stewart-Cousins said.
It’s shaping up to be the year for women in the state legislature. There are now 20 women Senators and 50 women Assembly members, breaking the record for both houses.
“I’m already known in the conference as somebody who is always bringing up upstate interests.”
“The historical significance of being in this building let alone being a member of the Assembly and having a seat on the Senate floor and it really does put everything in perspective on how important it is to be the voice for the people.”
The Senate Republicans are wasting no time, however, holding a press conference notably missing their Minority Leader Senator John Flanagan who is currently in rehab for his alcoholism. Senator Joe Griffo is leading in his place for now.
“We are united and supportive of his efforts to take care of himself and his health. And he will return as the leader of this conference,” Griffo said.
The Republicans are worried that the vote on rule changes on Wednesday will put the minority at an unfair advantage. They are saying that the new ethics structure would continue with bipartisan investigations, but place more Democrats on the committee than Republicans.
“We need to have and ensure that it is non-partisan and that it is equal.”
“I haven’t seen the new rules and I was told that they were released last night at ten and I would’ve hoped that we would have gotten off to a better start.”
The rules change did pass with 39 votes. In response, the Senate Democrats said a majority is needed since the committee will be voting on ethical bills.
Lawmakers, both old and new, many of them mentioned how today was such a reminder of the history that is in this building and all the people that walked these halls.
The next day of the session will not be until Monday the 14th.