Senate Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins 2014 Session Closing Remarks

June 21, 2014

Thank you Mr. President.

Thank You Senator Skelos and Senator Klein.

Thank you to Governor Cuomo for his vision and leadership in helping move this state forward.

And thank you to our partners in the other Legislative House, especially Speaker Silver who has been a true friend and a real progressive leader.

I would also like to take a moment to thank staff on both sides of the aisle. The work you have put in over the last 2 years has been invaluable. Thank you for all your hard work.

As we wrap up our 2 year term, I think about all we have experienced.

I think about the great history that was made when my wonderful colleagues in the Senate Democrats empowered me and allowed me become the first female legislative leader in state history.

But I also think about the unfortunate history that was created last year in this Chamber when two groups came together to disenfranchise the majority of elected Democrats, to seize power, and thwart the will of the electorate. While we were not given our rightful place in the Majority, we understood that this is about serving the people of New York and providing leadership so we put our disappointment aside, rolled up our sleeves and got to work. We used the power of our votes and the power of our voices to help pass some wonderful achievements.

Right out of the gate we stood with our Governor to enact the Safe Act. We provided the crucial number of votes for this important legislation. We passed our 3rd and 4th consecutive on-time budgets. We passed legislation to grow our economy and create jobs. We increased funding for our schools and funded statewide universal pre-k. We created tools to combat the heroin scourge facing our state. We provided some tax relief, although not enough in my opinion, to thousands of New Yorkers, we revised our common core implementation and teacher evaluation system and we helped change the conversation away from a certain veto of the medical marijuana legislation to a compromise, allowing us to provide much needed pain relief to the people who need it the most.

These are some of the bipartisan victories that all of us accomplished together and we can all celebrate today.

But we also must talk about the failures that were a result of the unfortunate agreement I mentioned earlier.

We failed to help over 1 million hard working New Yorkers rise out of bone crushing poverty by not raising the minimum wage enough, and not giving our local governments the option to raise it on their own.

We failed to stand up for women’s health and equality by not passing the entire women’s equality act.

We failed to provide enough real mandate relief to our local governments.

We failed to provide even stronger ethics and campaign finance reforms including public financing.

And we failed to provide equal access to educational opportunities to all children by not passing the Dream Act.

While of course these failure are disappointing that does not mean we stop fighting. Sometimes, we learn our greatest lessons when we fail.

So tonight as we leave here to enter the political season I want to wish everyone on both sides-Good Luck.

We may disagree on issues but I know we all agree that our most important job is respecting and serving the people of New York.

Thank you!