ascFrom the Morning Memo:

With the new legislative session comes a top hire for the Senate Democrats, who have brought on government relations specialist Suzy Ballantyne to become the conference’s new chief of staff.

She fills the vacancy created early last year, when the conference’s top aide Jeff Pearlman departed to become chief of staff to Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul.

Ballantyne since January 2015 has worked for the consulting firm and government relations shop Bolton-St. Johns, helping work on the effort to have the Zadroga Act be reauthorized. The measure provided $8.1 billion in health care funding for emergency workers during the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks as well as compensation.

A Clifton Park resident, Ballantyne has also served as the political director for Eleanor’s Legacy and was a key staffer for the New York State AFL-CIO for 29 years, having assisted in labor participation for campaigns.

“My priority in selecting a chief of staff was to find an individual who shares the Senate Democrats’ commitment to serving the public and making New York a more affordable place to live, work and raise a family, and that is precisely what I found in Suzy Ballantyne,” said Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.

“The inclusion of Suzy Ballantyne into our conference leadership team will help continue the progress we’ve made over the past few years in showing New Yorkers that the Senate Democrats are ready to lead and move our state forward.”

Ballantyne’s move over to the Senate Democrats comes amid high hopes for the conference, as lawmakers there anticipate making gains in the coming election. Democrats are already optimistic about their chances in winning a Senate seat in Nassau County vacated by former Majority Leader Dean Skelos following his corruption conviction.

A presidential election year is expected to drive out more Democratic voters and aid down-ballot races in the process.

“The upcoming legislative session provides us with an opportunity to rebuild the public’s trust as well as ensure the needs of middle and working-class families are addressed by state government,” Ballantyne said in a statement. “The Senate Democrats have proven that they have the vision, experience and dedication to move New York State forward and I am proud to be part of the team.”