Senate Democratic Leader Stewart-Cousins’ 2018 Legislative Session Opening Remarks

January 08, 2018

Albany, NY - “Thank you Mr. President and Thank you to all my colleagues. I will say it is great to be here, although it seem each year the off session time goes quicker and quicker. And it seems the temperature outside gets colder and colder.

Governor Cuomo we look forward to working with you. To our partners in the other house, especially Speaker Heastie thank you for your hard work and dedication to this great state.

And to Senator Flanagan and Senator Klein, the Democratic Conference stands ready to work with you.

This year will be an interesting year. We are in this chamber in our seats ready to work. And by the end of session we all may be in different seats but our goal no matter where we are sitting must be serving the people we represent.

A New Year and a new session should serve as a restart button and a time to refresh our commitment to this great state.

I stand here today wearing all black in solidarity with women everywhere. It is Hollywood, It is Wall Street and yes let me make it clear it is Government. I think every women in this chambers has had their own me too moment. And for those in the workforce now and for the future workforce, that has to stop!

Last week I got to talk with the founder of the Me Too movement Tarana Burke about what this moment in time means for all of us.

We need to deal with the scourge of sexual harassment in the workplace. We cannot let this moment and this movement pass.

Last year I had the opportunity to work with Saru Jayaraman, the founder and President of the Restaurant Opportunity Center United, as we drafted our tip workers bills. She was even at the Golden Globes last night as a guest of Amy Poehler. As we worked together, Saru pointed out 70% of tip workers are women. So let’s be clear these movements are connected so as we deal with sexual harassment we must also deal with our tip workers and pass my tip workers bill. We need to get this done immediately.

But Mr. President we have so much we need to get done this year.

This last year we have seen an administration in Washington that has continuously attacked our rights and values. New York must serve as a bulwark against these policies that are hurting everyday New Yorkers.

We have so many policies that we must pass that can serve as this bulwark.

Let’s pass real reforms to our voting system so New York is no longer at the back of the pack in voter engagement.

We must implement early voting, combat voter suppression, make registering to vote easier—things that we have introduced for years and we must pass the Voter Empowerment Act that we introduced last year.

Let’s finally make Albany an example of Good Government.

We must restore the public’s trust by restricting outside income, closing the LLC loophole, shining a light on how campaign funds are used, and ending the practice of using these accounts as personal ATMs.

Let’s continue to build our economy and create more jobs.

We have a national government that is vindictively using the tax laws to punish our state.

We must find ways to stop this from happening and work toward lowering our tax burden.

We must reduced our mandates on local governments. And we must help our small businesses thrive

Let’s stand up for the health and equality of the women of New York.

We need to recognize that women’s rights are human rights, and pass the Reproductive Health Act and Comprehensive Contraceptive Care Act.

Let’s make sure our children and every New Yorker has access to quality affordable health care.

Let’s make sure all New York children have access to the quality education they deserve and that all our children have access to affordable quality higher education.

Let’s make the Dream real.

Let’s continue to pass smart and common sense gun laws.

We must take guns from domestic abusers, require gun dealers to sell only child-proof weapons, and finally implement the ammunition database which was mandated by the 2013 NY-SAFE Act.

Let’s invest in our crumbling infrastructure especially the MTA and truly make New York the Empire State.

Colleagues, this is an ambitious agenda but one that is crucial to the wellbeing of our state.

 Mr. President, The Democratic Conference stands ready to work with all Senators, regardless of party affiliation, so let’s get to work.”