The Remarks Of Speaker Sheldon Silver
Opening Of The 230th Legislative Session
Welcome to Day Eight.
Let me begin this 230th Legislative Session by extending to you, my colleagues, to your loved ones, and to all of our excellent and dedicated staff, my wishes for a joyful, a healthy, and a rewarding new year.
On behalf of the House, let me deliver greetings and our warmest welcome to the families and friends of our new members.
Thank you for sharing this big day with us.
Now, with your indulgence, let us welcome to this Chamber, the men and women of the Assembly Intern Class of 2007.
Interns, the New York State Assembly is as old as America itself. While that may be amusing to those in this class who come from nations with ancient histories, let me remind you that this Body took form with the genesis of American Democracy, and that the leaders who have served in this House have contributed mightily to the ascendancy of this Democracy.
The architecture of this Chamber is indeed grand, but understand this.
Every square inch of this Chamber is held upright and welded together by the hopes and dreams, the prayers and principles of countless generations of immigrants, by the sweat and the muscle of legions of hardworking men and women, by the blood and sacrifice of great heroes, and by the hopes of children - every girl and every boy - who will lead this State through this century and into the next.
From this very Chamber have come two American Presidents, four Vice Presidents, eight United States Senators, and eighteen New York Governors.
From this floor have risen the voices of President Theodore Roosevelt, Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, and New York Governor and presidential nominee Al Smith.
Those of us who have earned the right to take our seats here, serve The People's House of the New York State Legislature with great pride and humility.
Our internship program is among the very best of its kind in the Nation.
We have provided you with outstanding faculty:
We urge you to take advantage of their wisdom and their experience.
For our part, we will strive to ensure that your experience in the Assembly is both enjoyable and enlightening. With the arrival of Governor Eliot Spitzer, we can guarantee you that it will be memorable.
My Colleagues, the eyes of New York are indeed upon us.
For twelve years, New Yorkers endured a state government at war with itself. The war is over.
For twelve years, we have told New Yorkers that we could accomplish so much more if only we had a real leader and a real partner in the Executive. Now, we have that real leader, that real partner in Governor Eliot Spitzer.
Long before Day One, I - and many of you - were working with Governor Spitzer to reinforce that partnership and to get a head start on the work ahead of us.
As pleased as I am that much of Governor Spitzer's agenda mirrors our own, I am far more gratified that we have an executive who is focused on the work and not on the politics.
We should be thrilled to have a partner in the executive; a governor who believes in achieving consensus with the Legislature, not merely dictating orders to the Legislature.
We should be overjoyed to have a partner in the executive who is "pumped up" by the challenge of restoring the people's faith in their government.
As I said in my response to the State of the State Address, we will follow the advice of Doctor Martin Luther King. We will take the first step in faith. We don't have to see the whole staircase right now. We just have to take that first step.
My Colleagues, let us not forget how much of that staircase we constructed.
We gave this State a plan for improving public education.
We fended off attempts to cut funding to our State University and City University schools, and we protected our students from reductions to the TAP program.
We not only carried the fight to ensure that every New Yorker could receive the health care they needed, we acted to protect the integrity of our health-care system so that it would remain the finest in the Nation, if not the world.
We published a comprehensive economic development strategy for Upstate New York and we passed the bills to make our plan reality.
We were funding and defending the Centers for Advanced Technology and we were advancing the idea of an innovation-based economy years before the previous administration even comprehended its importance.
We made the investments in transportation, in workforce training, in tourism, and in the environment.
And yes, we have heard the demand for government reform and we have responded to that demand. Still, there is much more work to be done.
We must heed the continuing demand for reform.
We must strive to raise The People's House to the highest standards of government excellence, accountability and ethical behavior.
My colleagues, we must make these changes. We can make these changes. We will make these changes.
In his State of the State Address, Governor Spitzer suggested that we need to experience - and I quote - "the pain of the word NO."
We know that pain. We dealt with "NO" quite a bit over the past 12 years.
No to stem cell research.
No to our efforts to reduce energy costs.
No to health care for the working poor - despite what the television commercials said.
For years, we heard no to Timothy's Law, no to Rockefeller Drug Law reform, no to getting more federal Medicaid dollars out of Washington.
The brunt of the resulting pain was not ours.
This was very real pain endured by working families on shoestring budgets, by those who need hope as they struggle with catastrophic illness, by the weak and the least fortunate among our citizens.
Now is the time for "YES" to real governing.
Asked about the ever-changing nature of life, the great playwright, George Bernard Shaw, once remarked: "The only person I know who behaves SENSIBLY is my tailor. He takes my measurements anew each time he sees me."
With each and every accolade bestowed upon our new governor there have followed "low blows" directed at this Legislature and at the character of the men and women elected to serve in this Chamber.
Until we get this session up and running until we accomplish something in partnership with Governor Spitzer, the critics will continue to measure us according to Pataki-era standards forgetting why we had to fight those fights and for whom we fought them.
But the issue of reform, my colleagues, runs more deeply than our collective actions.
I have been making the trek to Albany for three decades.
In that time, I have worked with and befriended some of the finest leaders, some of the brightest thinkers, some of the kindest, most generous human beings this world has to offer: Democrat and Republican, Liberal and Conservative.
Yes, every institution has members who lose touch and lose their way, but it pains me deeply to see the colleagues I admire - men and women with a profound sense of duty and honor - painted with the same negative brush as those who have lost touch with the honor and privilege of being elected to this House.
And when I talk about the privilege, I am not referring to the trappings of the office.
I'm talking about the privilege of looking into the eyes of mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, sons and daughters who have been devastated by AIDS, drugs, violence, by natural disaster, by the massive destruction of September Eleventh, and having the mandate and the resources to ease their suffering and make their lives better.
Yes, my colleagues, we, too, have a mandate.
It is a mandate to ensure that each and every child in this State receives the very best education this State can provide them, an education that not only guides them toward productive citizenship but one that enables our children to pursue their dreams and to make the most of their individual gifts; an education that enables them to compete and attain the opportunities that await them in this global marketplace.
Ours is a mandate to deliver an on-time budget.
Ours is a mandate for change. A mandate to work with Governor Spitzer to improve this government and to revitalize the economy of this State.
As we carry out that mandate, remember, New Yorkers need you to help lead this government, by example as well as by the actions we take together.
As always, I am honored to serve with you and I am proud to call you my friends.
So, I make you this pledge, one that I make each and every year, that I will defend the honor of this Institution to the best of my ability, and that I will preserve and protect its integrity and independence at all times and in all places.
Fortunately, we have proven leaders to help us carry out our mandate.
We are truly blessed to have the wise and guiding hand of our great Ways and Means Chairman, Denny Farrell.
Denny, you have given us class, character, and courage during an era marked by conflict, crisis, and complacency.
Your service to this State is as extraordinary as it is exemplary.
What more can I say, except that our trust in you can never be surpassed.
My gratitude to you always for your leadership, your counsel, and most importantly, your friendship.
To our new Majority Leader, Ron Canestrari, your leadership, your collegiality, your experience, and your loyalty to this Institution, I am confident, will make for a seamless transition as we begin our work on the floor of this House.
Ron, I know I speak for this Body when I say that we have every confidence in your abilities, and we will do everything in our power to make your job as easy as possible … at least for a week.
On behalf of all, we congratulate you on your appointment as Majority Leader and we wish you all of the best in the coming year.
To our Minority Leader, Jim Tedisco, let me say that our partnership has been solid and productive.
I expect that the Governor's call for unity and for an end to partisan bickering will enable us to do the People's business in an atmosphere of even greater cooperation and respect.
That said, let me assure you that I have the utmost respect for the role of the Minority Conference in this Chamber, and that we recognize the value your opinions.
Best wishes for the coming session.
My colleagues, this will be an incredible year, a year when we will be tested, a year when we will demonstrate the height of our capabilities, the breadth of our wisdom, the depth of our compassion, and the dimensions of our character.
We stand ready to work with Governor Spitzer and the Administration to accomplish all that has been ignored and denied in the past.
Together, with the Governor, let us take that first step forward in faith confident in our own craftsmanship, and let's build that ONE NEW YORK our constituents deserve.
New York State Assembly
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