I am honored to have earned your support to be elected as the new Speaker of the New York State Assembly.
I am known as a man of few words, so I will keep my remarks BRIEF.
This will probably be the longest speech I have ever given.
We gather here today during a turbulent time for this institution.
The resignation of the previous Speaker has brought about change in the leadership of this house, and this change in leadership will bring about much needed reform.
Let me state here today that the overwhelming majority of members of this legislature are men and women of integrity and honor, who came here to serve their districts with the sole purpose of improving the lives of their constituents.
Having said that, there's no question that the actions of a few have given cause for cynicism.
Through reform and action we will change this cynicism into trust, once again.
I want to thank every member, who, during the past week, has given me the opportunity to talk with them and forge a blueprint for the future of the State Assembly.
I am particularly grateful to those outstanding members of this body who actively participated in discussions about the leadership of the Assembly.
I want to recognize Assembly Members Keith Wright, Joe Lentol, Cathy Nolan, and my good friend, Joe Morelle.
I have spent all of my legislative career doing what I am most comfortable with … listening before I build consensus and take action.
I have listened to my colleagues and to leaders across the state, who understand that our state deserves a government as good as its people!
What I hear from them is a call to continue making the Assembly the place where we fight for working families.
What I hear from them is a commitment to an agenda of expanding the middle class, creating good-paying jobs, ensuring access to healthcare, education, housing and preserving the rights of every New Yorker, no matter their appearance or origin.
And most of all, what I hear is that we must settle for nothing less than real, clear reform to make this chamber a place of pride once again!
The need for reform in Albany did not begin in the last few weeks. For years now, there has been a call for bringing sunlight to our capital. And the time is here for us to act.
We need to democratize our legislative process. We need to take advantage of the talent and skills of every single one of our members, from the most senior member to those recently elected.
We have to reform the way we regulate legislators' outside income. We must raise their wages so we can fairly compensate our members as we attract the best and brightest minds in our state.
And, we have to address the issue of per diem pay. We have to make sure taxpayer money is spent carefully and transparently. There must be accountability.
Never again can there be a question about the integrity of our members or this institution.
Through a beefed up Steering Committee and a newly established Policy Review and Analysis Work Group, every member will be fully informed and will have a real say on legislation that will come before the Assembly.
Just as important, we will double down on our efforts to create a work place that is safe from harassment. Whether you are a powerful member, a part-time staffer, or a volunteer, there will be a zero tolerance policy for those who engage in sexual harassment. Complaints will be dealt with swiftly, fairly and with transparency.
As we find ourselves at a critical juncture, we must maintain our resolve to move our state forward, even as we reform this institution.
We have to move quickly to complete the job the people of New York State sent us here to do.
We must now move to enact an on time budget that is fair to everyone.
We have a minimum wage to raise, a women's equality agenda to pass, a Dream Act to enact and a criminal justice system to reform. We have an environment to protect, good-paying jobs to create and children to educate.
Because the challenges are great and your spirit is willing, I am particularly grateful for the trust that you have placed in me to lead this institution.
For a Bronx boy who majored in applied mathematics and statistics, this is one probability that I could have never forecast.
I mention the Bronx because of the pride I have in my district and my borough and because I know that I would not stand here today without the very special community that raised me and inspired me to serve.
It is a community of family and friends who showed me that anything is possible when you work hard, chase after your dream, and refuse to give in to long odds.
Friends, as we have seen, even the longest lasting powers move on.
Even the most seemingly immobile structures give way.
We do not own this house. We are simply tenants here, and as the present occupants of this chamber, we have a sacred duty to honor its history, improve its standing among our citizenry and above else create a legacy of results that will attest that we left this chamber - and our state - better than when we inherited it.
This is my vision.
This is our calling.
And this will be an Assembly that's stronger than ever and a New York State that's prosperous for all.
Lastly, as I thank my family, my sisters, and my beautiful daughter Taylor, I cannot help but nod to my parents, who are no longer with us. They instilled in me a set of values that have allowed me to stand before you today.
And, on personal note, I cannot help but note that today's second resolution before this house is a resolution honoring the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. His sacrifices, his courage and his belief in equal rights are the foundation on which I stand today.
Thank you Dr. King for making this day possible.
And thank you again to my colleagues for the opportunity to meet the challenges ahead. Let's get to work.