Under Heastie, Committee Chairs May Stay Put For Now (Updated)

In the short term, lawmakers do not expect Carl Heastie to make wholesale changes to the Assembly’s leadership structure if he succeeds – as it now appears he will – in becoming the chamber’s next speaker.

A number of lawmakers with deep ties to the embattled incumbent speaker, Sheldon Silver, have key committee chairmanships: Denny Farrell at Ways and Means, for example; Joe Lentol at Codes and Deborah Glick at Higher Education – to name a few.

Already, Heastie has pledged to keep Joe Morelle, of the Rochester area, the majority leader, publicly announcing that intention not long after Morelle announced he was ending his bid for the speakership and throwing his support to Heastie. Farrell, too, is expected to stay Ways and Means chairman – at least through the budget season.

Lentol, who had sought the speakership until bowing out on Thursday and backing Heastie, acknowledged the Bronx Democrat is likely to make changes.

“If he decides in his wisdom to make changes, he’ll make them,” Lentol said. “It doesn’t make sense for him in the beginning of his tenure to change things all over the place. That’s just my opinion…I didn’t have the temerity to ask for anything. It’s up to him. He’s going to be the speaker.”

But Lentol made a pitch, too, for saying on as chairman of his committee, which will have a key role to play this year as lawmakers mull criminal justice reforms in response to the upheaval surrounding the Michael Brown an Eric Garner cases.

“I think I can help (Heastie) as Codes Committee chairman and help him with the tumult of becoming speaker,” Lentol said.

Heastie is expected to become speaker as early as next week. Silver is expected to vacate the office on Monday and state lawmakers today said they expected a vote either Monday or Tuesday.

Silver will not be resigning his seat in the Assembly as he he battles federal corruption charges. He isn’t required to give up his seat unless he is convicted of a felony. It’s not clear where Silver will be assigned to sit in the chamber once he is no longer speaker, though Lentol expects him to be in the back of the room, with other senior members.

The back of the chamber is actually a choice spot, given the proximity it offers to staff.

UPDATE: A source close to Heastie confirms the speaker-in-waiting isn’t planning to make any wholesale changes once he takes the speaker’s chair.

“One thing about (Heastie), he’s very deliberate,” said the source, who has been in close contact with the Bronx assemblyman throughout the speaker’s race. “You can’t step in amid a budget process and make everythig chaotic. You need to keep as much institutional knowledge in place…Once the budget is done, he can take a long break to breathe, and then look at what needs to get done.”

In other words: There will be changes under the Heastie regime, but not in the near term.

This source said Heastie did not make any promises to members regarding committee or leadership posts in return for votes. There are, however, several empty positions available for him to dole out, some of which are high profile and/or carry big lulus – including speaker pro tempore ($22,000) and assistant speaker ($25,000), held by former Long Island Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg, and former Brooklyn Assemblywoman Rhoda Jacobs, respectively.

The Environmental Committee and the Aging Committee are also currently without chairs, thanks to the retirement at the end of last year of Long Island Assemblyman Robert Sweeney and Brooklyn Assemblywoman Joan Millman.

On Wednesday, a joint legislative budget hearing on the environmental portion of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2015-16 budget was held regardless of the committee vacancy in the Assembly.

Also worth watching: The future of the Education Committee, currently chaired by Queens Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan, who so far has refused to join her (now former) fellow speaker candidates and drop out of the race to clear the way for Heastie. Nolan is an outspoken champion of public schools, and a strong NYSUT/UFT ally. Losing her at a time when the unions are gearing up for a major battle with Cuomo over education reform would be disruptive – to say the least.

It would be difficult for Heastie to bounce Nolan, however, even if she hangs in until the bitter end with her bid for the speaker post. Punishing her would run counter to the “reform” mantra the Assembly Democrats – including Heastie – have been repeating in the face of Silver’s demise, and it also would not likely sit will with the female members of the conference.

Heastie Picks Up Five More Votes For Speaker

A group of five state lawmakers from Manhattan on Friday afternoon endorsed Bronx Assemblyman Carl Heastie for Assembly speaker.

Among the latest batch of Heastie supporters is Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh, who has been acting as an unofficial spokesman of sorts for the “Reform Caucus” of lawmakers.

The other Heastie supporters include: Guillermo Linares, Dan Quart, Robert Rodriguez and Rebecca Seawright.

“Having carefully considered the candidates for Speaker of the New York State Assembly, we have endorsed the Honorable Carl Heastie, as the best choice to lead the Assembly,” the lawmakers said in a joint statement. “We look forward to working together with him to ensure that the Assembly lives up to our aspirations to serve our respective constituents and all New Yorkers equitably, honestly, and effectively, through a truly participatory legislative process.”

Queens Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan remains Heastie’s only opponent after Joe Lentol and Joe Morelle dropped there bids and endorsed him.

Speaker Vote Likely Next Week

With Bronx Assemblyman Carl Heastie locking up support to become the next speaker, lawmakers acknowledged on Friday it was likely a vote could be held as early as Monday or Tuesday to have him permanently replace the embattled Sheldon Silver.

“We could potentially do it by next week,” said Westchester County Assemblywoman Amy Paulin. “If Carl has enough support, which considering Joe (Morelle) pulled out and Cathy Nolan is left in the race, it’s very possible.”

Initially, the plan was for Morelle, the Assembly majority leader, to become acting speaker until Feb. 10, with a leadership vote held by then. Morelle today dropped his own bid to become speaker, and backed Heastie.

The idea was to give the candidates for speaker enough time to build support over the next several weeks. But with support for Heastie rapidly gaining steam, that plan at this point appears to be moot.

Another suburban lawmaker, Democratic Assemblyman Tom Abinanti said it was preferable to get the new speaker in place sooner rather than later.

“There could be a vote on Monday,” Abinanti said. “We’ve resolved the issue. We’ve come to someone who has the votes it appears, so there’s no reason to amend the rules.”

Lawmakers expect at the very least to have a vote potentially as late as Tuesday to replace Silver, who is expected to vacate the office by Monday.

Silver is yet to resign from the post and could face a public ouster by his colleagues if he does not.

Either way, lawmakers are pointing to the Assembly’s rules, which make the majority leader the interim speaker until the Assembly reconvenes in Albany.

If the Assembly meets in an actual session on Monday and without a resignation from Silver in hand, the rules would have to be amended for a leadership vote the following day, Tuesday.

“Either we’re going to have an election on the third or the 10th,” said Buffalo Assemblyman Sean Ryan. “It matters pretty much whether we can get a consensus in the conference.”

Regardless, lawmakers may want to wait and huddle in closed-door conference on Monday with Heastie to discuss what direction he’ll take the chamber.

Lawmakers are hopeful the next speaker will bring needed changes to the chamber and potentially democratize aspects of what is considered a place that follows a top-to-bottom approach in governing.

“I, along with any member of the body for less than five years we want to shake up the rigidity based on seniority,” Ryan said. “We’re hoping that with the new speaker there will be more openness of bringing the assembly into really a modern body.”

Heastie: Morelle To ‘Play A Greater Role’ As Majority Leader

Assemblyman Carl Heastie, the leading candidate to become speaker of the state Assembly, said he has asked incumbent Majority Leader Joe Morelle to stay in that post and have more influence in that office, the Bronx Democrat said in a statement.

Morelle dropped his bid to become speaker in a statement this morning as support for Heastie to succeed Sheldon Silver is coalescing.

In a statement, Heastie says that both he and Morelle will “work hard every day to build consensus” and bring about new reforms.

“I have been proud to call Joe Morelle a friend for many years and I am honored to have his support to become the next Speaker of the New York State Assembly,” Heastie said. “Over the past week, he and I have spoken daily about our shared commitment to restoring the integrity of the State Assembly, an institution we both care about greatly. In the days and months ahead, I will continue to rely on his counsel. I have asked Joe to remain as the Majority Leader and to play a greater role in that capacity. Joe and I, along with our very talented colleagues in the Democratic conference, will work hard every day to build consensus, enact meaningful new reforms, and create opportunity for all New Yorkers. We look forward to starting a new chapter for the New York State Assembly and the people we all serve.”

Morelle, of the Rochester area, is considered popular among his colleagues and the majority leader’s post is traditionally given to an upstate lawmaker.

Morelle was the lawmaker who informed Silver personally he had lost the confidence of the Democratic conference this week.

Friends Of Democracy Pushes Speaker Candidates On Public Financing

The political action committee that has for the last several election cycles pushed public financing for campaigns in New York is out with letters to the two remaining candidates for Assembly speaker to push them to publicly support a small-dollar matching system.

“Specifically, I urge you to publicly state that you will insist that Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to provide matching funds for small donations for all state offices is not removed from the Governor’s budget proposal,” wrote Friends of Democracy Director David Donnelly. “Your public pledge would signal to the citizens of the state that a new day is possible in Albany.”

Donnelly noted that adopting such a system would restore the public trust that “has been shattered by a parade of money in politics scandals over the past decade.”

Outgoing Speaker Sheldon Silver faces five counts of corruption charges stemming from his use of referrals, which federal law enforcement alleges are masked as bribes.

The letter was sent today to both Carl Heastie of the Bronx and Cathy Nolan of Queens, the two remaining lawmakers who are running for speaker.

Friends of Democracy is an independent expenditure committee supported by Jonathan Soros, the son of liberal financier George Soros.

The group has been largely the most active in state Senate campaigns on behalf of Democratic candidates that back public financing.

Ny Speaker Letters by Nick Reisman

Morelle Withdraws From Race For Speaker

Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle backed out of the race for speaker on Friday and threw his support behind Bronx Democrat Carl Heastie to succeed Sheldon Silver.

“Over the past several days Assemblyman Heastie and I have discussed at length how to advance the best interests of the citizens of our state by making the New York Assembly more inclusive and member-driven,” Morelle said in a statement. “Carl and I have served together and have been close friends for 15 years. I have the utmost confidence in his ability to unite our members and move the institution forward. He will have my full support.”

Morelle’s withdrawal from the race leaves Queens Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan as the only person left to challenge Heastie for the spot.

It appears, however, that support for Heastie is rapidly coalescing. Ten suburban lawmakers from Westchester, Rockland, Orange and Long Island are backing Heastie to succeed Silver, who faces five counts of corruption and is expected to vacate the office by Monday.

Morelle’s exit could give him a boost in remaining majority leader of the Democratic conference — a post that is usually held by an upstate lawmaker given the domination of New York City holding the office of speaker.

In his statement, Morelle made a pitch for unity.

“I am incredibly grateful to the members of our conference for their ongoing friendship and support throughout this process. United and working together we continue to address the pressing challenges facing New York. It is this commitment that will guide our work over the coming year and inspire us to even greater heights,” Morelle said.

Morelle’s push to become speaker was considered an uphill climb.

As an upstate lawmaker, he was running against the history and tradition of giving the speakership to a resident of the five boroughs.

Morelle is close with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is not the most popular figure within the Assembly Democratic conference.

More broadly, Morelle is considered a moderate on fiscal issues and is close with the business community in the Rochester area.

Morelle is due to become acting speaker until Feb. 10, when an election to replace Silver is expected to be held.

Suburban Lawmakers Back Heastie

At least 10 lawmakers have signed on to backing Bronx Assemblyman Carl Heastie to become the next speaker of the state Assembly.

The Democratic lawmakers, who represent suburban districts north and east of New York City include: Aileen Gunther, James Skoufis, Ken Zebrowski, Ellen Jaffee, Amy Paulin, Tom Abinanti, Steve Otis, David Buchwald, Steve Enlgebright and Fred Thiele.

Two more Democrats who represent Westchester County also believed to be in line for backing Heastie to replace embattled Speaker Sheldon Silver, who is due to leave the office by Monday, bringing the number up to 12.

“He’s talking about reforms and we’re all committed to discussing and seeing how we can improve the chamber,” Zebrowski, of Rockland County, said in a phone interview. “I think as we go through this process and throughout the session, everyone will have a chance to weigh in.”

What those reforms are is yet to be fully ironed out. Lawmakers are pushing to have more input and influence over legislation drafted and pushed by the chamber.

Zebrowski indicated the changes will likely be discussed over the course of the session, along with potential rules changes in the Assembly.

“We’ll be talking about more specifically whether there are any rules changes or things that can accomplish that,” he said.

Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle of the Rochester area and Queens Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan are also in the race to succeed Silver.

Queens Democrats, however, are expected to fall in line behind Heastie becoming speaker.

Heastie: Someone Who ‘Breaks The Glass Ceiling’

From the Morning Memo:

Carl Heastie of the Bronx is poised to become the next speaker of the state Assembly.

The 47-year-old county chairman, a taciturn and soft-spoken lawmaker, in an interview with NY1’s Zack Fink touted his ability to talk to people, even when they disagree.

“(I) try to have good relationships with anyone even if you disagree. And I’m sure the governor and I are going to disagree. But he and I have always had the ability to talk to each other and disagree,” he said.

He would have to put those skills to good use if he becomes the speaker of the Assembly, who is one of the “three men in a room” who negotiates the budget and major legislative priorities with the Senate majority leader and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Lawmakers in recent days have indicated they want a speaker who can be tough enough to do the table-poudning budget work with Cuomo, but also someone who can loosen the grip the speaker’s office has on legislation, committee assignments and, most importantly, information.

Heastie, who would become the first African-American speaker of the Assembly if elected, said such progress “shouldn’t stop with me.”

“My ability and position as county chair I’ve always been very supportive of women candidates and appointments and recommendations and things like that,” he said. “And I love being someone who breaks the glass ceiling.”

On a more personal side to the potential speaker-to-be, Heastie revealed his favorite food is lasagna and that his favorite movie is “Purple Rain.”

One thing that would likely have to change for Heist is talking to reporters. Indeed, the on-camera interview granted by Heastie is a rare one. Press shy, Heastie is known for rarely commenting on the record, instead preferring emails or texts.

As he was poised to build support for speaker, Heastie hired two media consultants who have experience with the Capitol press corps.

Heastie begrudgingly acknowledged that not speaking to reporters would have to change.

“I think I am going to have to unfortunately,” he said.

Heastie Solidifies Support For Speaker

From the Morning Memo:

The Carl Heastie for Assembly speaker train is leaving the station — all aboard.

That appears to be the sentiment this morning as the Bronx Democrat is closing in on the 76 votes needed to succeed the embattled Sheldon Silver as speaker.

Heastie won the backing of segments of vast segments of the five boroughs over the last several days, including Queens.

Joe Lentol of Brooklyn, the Assembly Codes committee chairman, dropped his bid when it became apparent he did not have the backing of his home borough.

Lentol, in a statement, backed Heastie for speaker, who would become the first African-Amercian lawmaker to rise to that post.

Lawmakers who signed on to a letter pushing reforms in the chamber also began signing up for Team Heastie, including Walter Mosley and Linda Rosenthal.

Then, the suburbanites moved in.

Westchester Assemblyman Tom Abinanti tweeted last night he would back Heasite for speaker.

“I support Carl Heastie for Speaker – he knows the demands of living in the costly, high-taxed NYC area & he will fight for the middle class,” Abinanti wrote on Twitter.

Heastie is believed to have the support of at least 10 suburban lawmakers.

Still in the race for speaker is Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle, who becomes interim speaker when Silver vacates the office come Monday.

Queens Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan is also still moving forward with her speaker bid.

Given Heastie’s rapidly building support, some lawmakers were quietly questioning on Thursday whether the fast-moving events could force a potential vote to fill the vacancy before Feb.10, when Morelle is due to give up the acting speakership.

Lentol Withdraws From Speaker’s Race, Backs Carl Heastie

Brooklyn Assemblyman Joe Lentol is withdrawing from the race for Assembly speaker and throwing his support behind Bronx lawmaker Carl Heastie, he announced in a statement Thursday afternoon.

The move comes as support in New York City’s political establishment appears to be coalescing around Heastie.

A source said Queens County is expected to back Heastie’s candidacy following Lentol’s withdrawing from the race.

The move by Queens Democrats today would hamper the bid by Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan, who would become the first woman elected speaker of the Assembly.

Lentol, the chairman of the Assembly codes committee, had up until only a few hours ago claimed to have the support from his home borough of Brooklyn.

That claim was swiftly undercut by Assemblyman Walter Mosley of Brooklyn announced his support for Heastie.

“I believe in the democratic process. I know our house will move forward in a positive way,” Lentol said in a statement. “I believe we will succeed in making the New York State Assembly stronger, more responsive and ultimately more accountable to all of us as members, which will then translate to better representation for the residents of the great State of New York.”

Also in the race for speaker is Majority Leader Joe Morelle, a Rochester-area Democrat who becomes interim speaker until Feb. 10, when a planned election is to be held to succeed embattled incumbent Sheldon Silver, who faces five counts of corruption charges.