New York’s state Assembly chose a new speaker on Tuesday to replace Sheldon Silver, who held the position for over two decades but stepped down this week following his arrest over alleged corruption.
Carl Heastie, a former New York City budget analyst, was elected by the Democratic majority after he was chosen by the caucus in a closed-door meeting on Monday, Reuters said.
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Silver was arrested on suspicion of pocketing $4 million from bribery and kickback schemes, but denies any wrongdoing and says he will be vindicated, the report said.
The ex-speaker, who was seated in the back of the chamber during the vote, is out on bail and remains a member of the Assembly. He voted for Heastie, Lohud.com said.
Heastie is the first African-American to serve as speaker of the Assembly in the chamber’s 238-year history.
In a short speech after his election lasting less than 10 minutes, Heastie promised to address issues that have dogged Albany for years such as daily expenses for Assembly members. He also vowed zero tolerance for sexual harassment, Reuters said.
“There is no question that the actions of the few have given cause for cynicism, ” Heastie said from the speaker’s chair, the report said. “We must settle for nothing less than real reform to make this chamber a place of pride once again.”
The Assembly’s legislative duties have come to a halt since Silver’s arrest on Jan. 22. So far in 2015, the chamber has passed no bills; At the same point in 2014, the Assembly had passed 95 bills, Lohud.com said.
Heastie’s selection removes a question mark over state budget negotiations in which Silver had been instrumental in his position as speaker for over two decades. In January, Governor Andrew Cuomo presented an ambitious $142 billion spending plan for the next financial year, according to Reuters.
The Assembly’s 105-member Democratic Conference emerged from a closed-door meeting Monday to say they were unanimously supporting Heastie, giving him more than enough votes in the 150-seat chamber, Lohud.com said.
Silver’s resignation took effect at 11:59 p.m. on Monday, Lohud.com said. He had held the post since early 1994.