Speaker Carl Heastie's address to members of the Assembly on the first day of the 2016 Legislative Session identified the Assembly's legislative priorities, which include increasing education aid for schools so students can receive the best education the state can afford, a middle class tax cut coupled with a measure to make the wealthy pay their fair share, initiatives to move the state's families forward and the passage of legislation to raise the wage floor for workers.
Below are some of the reactions to Speaker Heastie's remarks.
"Speaker Heastie and the Assembly Majority have outlined a legislative agenda that focuses on making a real difference in the lives of working men and women," said New York State AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento. "Many of the issues, including the fight for $15, paid family leave, child care funding and the Dream Act have been top priorities for the labor movement. We look forward to working with the Speaker and our partners in the Assembly Majority to pass real reforms that are vital to improving the lives of working people."
"Speaker Heastie has laid out an ambitious agenda - one with the right set of priorities for New York State," said NYSUT President Karen E. Magee. "The Assembly's commitment to making bold investments in public education and supporting struggling schools; expanding universal pre-kindergarten; and improving access to childcare is greatly appreciated by NYSUT and its more than 600,000 members who live and work in every zip code of the state."
NYSUT Executive Vice President Andrew Pallotta said, "With today's speech, Speaker Heastie showed he understands the real challenges that students, educators and working families face, and what state government can do to help. We look forward to working collaboratively with both houses of the Legislature as this session gets underway to enact solutions that make our strong public institutions even stronger."
UFT President Michael Mulgrew
"I want to thank Speaker Heastie and the Assembly Majority for their leadership on so many issues - from school funding and workplace protections to tax policy and women's equality -- that are critical to the lives of average New Yorkers," said UFT President Michael Mulgrew.
New York State School Boards Association
"School boards applaud the Legislature's record investment in education last year, but cost pressures on school districts continue to escalate," said Timothy G. Kremer, executive director of the New York State School Boards Association. "We are heartened by the Assembly's commitment to continue high levels of support for all schools, through overall aid, increased investment in pre-kindergarten, and support for struggling schools. This funding will help schools meet the challenges of implementing higher learning standards, expanding services to help students overcome poor socioeconomic conditions, and educating more children in prekindergarten programs."
Family Planning Advocates of New York
"Starting the 2016 legislative session with strong support for reproductive rights, Speaker Heastie sends the clear message that New York State will stand up for women and families," said Kim Atkins, board president, Family Planning Advocates of New York.
"While other states have seen politicians attack reproductive health care in an effort to erode access and dictate women's lives, our New York State Assembly continues to move forward towards full equity and equality for everyone, both at home and in the work place. Even though some federal politicians continue to work to defund Planned Parenthood, New York's recognition that access to birth control is basic health care, and that sexuality education is vital for sound public health, stands as a guide post.
"We thank Speaker Heastie for recognizing that access to comprehensive reproductive health care is fundamental to the health and well-being of us all and our ability to achieve educational, economic and family goals," added Atkins.
National Organization for Women - New York
"Speaker Heastie has taken bold action for women's rights and equality," said Sonia Ossorio, president, National Organization for Women-New York. "There is still much work to be done, and we are confident he'll continue to prioritize women and their families in the new legislative session so that we can make New York the greatest place for women and girls to live, learn, work, and thrive." New York Paid Leave Campaign
"Year after year, the Assembly has shown leadership on paid family leave, an issue of critical importance to working New Yorkers - and this year, with their continued support, we are confident that paid family leave will become a reality in our state. We are grateful to Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan and her colleagues for once again making paid family leave a priority, and look forward to working together in the coming months to ensure that New Yorkers are no longer forced to choose between their families' health and economic security."
After School Works!
"At a time when New York State seeks to improve student achievement and readiness for college and career, the evidence that afterschool and summer programs play a critical role in improving student outcomes cannot be overlooked. Yet, across New York State there are still 1.1 million children in need of high-quality afterschool programs and 500,000 children in need of summer programs. Increased investments in childcare are needed to support these crucial programs and to give every child the chance to reach their full potential. We thank Speaker Heastie and the Assembly for their dedication to ensuring these investments are included in the state budget," said Kelly Malone Sturgis, executive director, AfterSchool Works!, New York State Afterschool Network.
Make the Road
"We look forward to working with Speaker Heastie and the Assembly in this upcoming session," Javier H. Valdés, co-executive director, Make the Road New York. "Under the guidance of the Speaker, we will work together to address the issues that affect working class families in the state of New York. In particular, we are looking forward to increasing resources for public education, passing the DREAM Act, and ensuring that working parents have the support necessary to provide for their families."
Empire Justice Center
"We applaud Speaker Heastie for highlighting issues of critical importance to New York's most vulnerable families and individuals," said Anne Erickson, president and CEO, Empire Justice Center, a statewide organization working for social and economic justice. "Our advocates look forward to working with the Speaker and the Assembly to support their efforts to improve access to child care assistance, increase the minimum wage, enact paid family leave, and so many other essential policy issues that impact the lives of our clients."
"Today Speaker Heastie laid out a truly progressive vision for what our state government should strive to achieve this legislative session," stated Jose Calderon, president of the Hispanic Federation. "The state's 3.4 million Latino residents are facing enormous economic, education and health disparities and the state has an economic, civic and moral obligation to take meaningful steps to increase opportunity and spur growth for our community. Passing the DREAM Act, raising the minimum raise to $15, and investing in school and childcare funding is a great start toward achieving those goals."
New York Immigration Coalition
"With 2016 upon us, we look forward to working with New York State Assembly Speaker Heastie and all our state's representatives to move forward key priorities for immigrant communities, including adult education, workforce and economic development, and tuition equality for all immigrants," said Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition. "We thank the Speaker for his ongoing commitment to addressing immigrant issues, and call on our state representatives to help expand opportunities for New York's immigrants."
Executive Director of the New York State Council of School Superintendents
"We are grateful for the Assembly's past support of state aid to our public schools and encouraged by Speaker Heastie's commitment to a significant increase in aid to education in the coming state budget," said Robert Reidy, executive director, New York State Council of School Superintendents. "School district leaders are doing their best to implement higher standards and improve opportunities for students while holding down local tax increases. Strong state support is essential to their success."
New York Civil Liberties Union
"The NYCLU looks forward to working with Speaker Heastie on a legislative agenda to promote justice and equality for all New Yorkers," said Donna Lieberman, executive director, New York Civil Liberties Union. "This includes, finally codifying Roe v. Wade to ensure that women can get the care they need to preserve their health throughout pregnancy and enacting family leave insurance that will support all families. We count on the Assembly to stand firm for every child's right to an adequate public education."
Alliance for Quality Education
"Speaker Carl Heastie has set the tone for the budget season by laying out the Assembly Majority's progressive vision to deliver educational equity and support children and families," said Billy Easton, executive director for the Alliance for Quality Education.
"Many communities in New York State are suffering from crushing levels of poverty and quality public education can open the door to opportunity. Speaker Heastie made it clear that the Assembly will fight for the equitable school funding that is long overdue. Funding for high-need schools will mean more arts and music, smaller class sizes and more students succeeding. "His focus on pre-K is absolutely key. Only a couple years ago, New York made a promise of full-day pre-K for every four-year-old and we cannot let that promise be broken. Pre-K makes a dramatic difference for children. It increases success in school, college and life. It was also encouraging to hear the Speaker commit to fight for access to quality childcare and affordable higher education. Both are key to helping families lift themselves out of poverty," stated Easton.
"We can afford to do what our children need. The Speaker made clear the Assembly is committed to asking billionaires and the one percent to stand up for our kids by paying a little more in taxes. This is a truly progressive vision for how New York State should address both educational opportunity and the stark inequality in our state and communities," Easton added.