The Remarks Of Speaker Sheldon Silver

Drop The Rock Advocacy Day

Chancellor's Hall, Albany, NY
Tuesday, March 10, 2009

[As Prepared For Delivery]

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Thank you, Glenn [Martin], for that very generous introduction.

I accept these thirty thousand "Signatures for Change" as further evidence of what I - and my Assembly Majority colleagues - have known all along:

That the Rockefeller Drug Laws have been and continue to be an economic failure, a criminal justice failure, a public health failure, a family and community disaster.

Members of "Drop the Rock," thank you for being here and thank you for your warm welcome.

Speaking for my friend and colleague, Assemblyman Jeff Aubry - the acknowledged champion of Rockefeller reform in our government - who you will be hearing from very shortly, and speaking for all of your friends in the Assembly Majority

I bring you our greetings.

I bring you our respect.

I bring you our gratitude for the years and years of dedication, emotion, intelligence, and hard work that you have brought to bear on the drug policy debate here in the Empire State.

As you know, I and my Assembly Majority colleagues have been fighting the Rockefeller fight for a long, long time. We remember the history.

I will never forget 2003, standing with Russell Simmons in our State Capitol, in the Governor's office, arguing for drug law reform with then-Governor George Pataki and the Republican Senate Majority Leader, Senator Joe Bruno.

It was an animated discussion to say the least.

Though we won limited reforms in 2004 and 2005, we needed to accomplish so much more. We knew we needed to change the parameters of the debate.

To help New Yorkers understand that drug use and addiction is a public health crisis - and not solely a criminal justice issue - we conducted two historic public hearings in May of last year.

To help news reporters understand the effectiveness of drug treatment, we brought them to the Eleanor Young Clinic not far from here, so that they could speak to the clients and see a successful treatment program in action.

Out of our continuing efforts came the drug law reform legislation we passed one week ago today.

We will break New York's addiction to mandatory minimum sentences and return to our trial judges, the discretion to choose alternatives to incarceration.

We will invest in drug treatment to help our addicted brothers and sisters to break the shackles of addiction.

We will re-connect families and communities that have been unduly punished by the excessive Rockefeller Laws.

With the commitment of our partners in government, this State will take a giant step toward ending a grave social injustice and we will breathe common sense and compassion into a drug policy that is as extreme and outdated as it is ineffective.

To borrow the words of my colleague, Assemblyman Keith Wright of Harlem:

It is time to educate, not incarcerate. It is time to rehabilitate, not incarcerate.

It is time to reform the Rockefeller Drug Laws.