Carl E. Heastie is the 100th Speaker of the New York State Assembly. He has the historic distinction of being the first African-American to serve as leader of the Chamber’s 150 members representing communities across the state of New York. Since February 3, 2015, he has led the Assembly Majority in efforts to uplift communities and promote a Families First agenda that prioritizes strategic investments in the health, safety, economic and social well-being of New York’s families. Under his leadership, the Assembly has won a number of landmark victories that deliver on the Assembly Majority’s promise to expand opportunities for achievement in communities around the state.
Prior to becoming Speaker, Heastie – a lifelong advocate for workers’ rights – served as chair of the Assembly Labor Committee. He was the principal negotiator in securing an increase in the minimum wage and in 2015, with the support of his Majority colleagues began the fight for $15 in the New York State Legislature. These efforts culminated in 2016 with the successful enactment of a graduated plan to raise the minimum wage across the state to provide workers at the lowest rungs of the economic ladder a fair chance to achieve financial independence and success. Before becoming Speaker he was also the prime sponsor of the Wage Theft Prevention Act that provided a framework for the State Department of Labor to root out incidences of wage theft and help aggrieved workers reclaim their illegally withheld earnings.
Speaker Heastie is a proud product of New York City’s public schools and throughout his legislative career he has been a passionate advocate for the transformative power of education. He has joined his Majority colleagues in fighting for spending plans to provide funding for statewide universal pre-kindergarten programs and additional support for the state’s neediest schools. Since he became Speaker in 2015, these efforts have secured more than $5.2 billion in additional school aid funding. These investments have not only provided an essential foundation for early childhood education, they help school districts afford the resources they need to provide a sound basic education to every child in New York. In 2016, this commitment was strengthened by the inclusion of additional support to establish community schools, a holistic approach to providing students with needs-based education that provides wraparound health, social services, mental health and afterschool programming to promote the well-being of students alongside their academic success.
In an especially poignant campaign to strengthen the achievement of all New York’s students, he championed efforts to secure the enactment of President Barack Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative. This victory made New York the first state in the nation to commit to this innovative, multi-faceted agenda to overcome challenges and improve outcomes for boys and young men of color. Since its inception in 2016, New York has invested $56 million in My Brother’s Keeper initiatives.
In one of his first actions as Speaker, Heastie strengthened the Assembly’s longstanding commitment to supporting high quality, public education by creating the Higher Education Road to Success Initiative to build bridges to higher education for New York’s students. Since 2015, this initiative has provided a more than 40 percent increase in funding support for opportunity programs that help thousands of low and middle income families afford a college education. It also marked the beginning of strategic annual efforts to slow down the rapidly rising cost of tuition by increasing base aid for community college students, earmarking millions in funding support for capital improvements as well as supporting child care services on public school campuses. Another highlight of the Road to Success Initiative was the creation of a Foster Youth College Success initiative to improve college graduation prospects among a student population that faces unique challenges in completing their education. This highly successful program began with an Assembly-led $1.5 million commitment in 2015 that has since grown to $6 million in the most recently enacted 2018-19 SFY Budget.
Under Speaker Heastie’s leadership, New York has ushered in reforms to lead the criminal justice system into the 21st century. In 2017, Heastie led the Assembly Majority in passing a comprehensive 12-bill criminal justice reform package. Just weeks later, during the SFY 2017-18 Budget, Speaker Heastie, alongside his Majority colleagues, successfully negotiated a measure passed by both houses to strengthen New York’s indigent legal defense program and finally raise the age of adult criminal responsibility, achieving one of the most significant victories in social and criminal justice reforms in recent history.
Speaker Heastie has also prioritized passing legislation to combat some of the most pressing challenges facing communities around the state, chief among them, the affordable housing crisis that has left of New Yorkers struggling to afford the rising cost of housing. In 2016, the Assembly Majority fought to secure a multi-year, $2.5 billion investment for the creation and preservation of affordable housing as well as new supportive housing units in order to stem the flow of families and individuals battling substance use into homelessness.
In 2017, under Speaker Heastie’s leadership the Assembly Majority secured the approval of a measure to expand ridesharing in upstate communities while upholding their commitment to defending public safety and important worker protections.
Speaker Heastie has also been a tireless advocate for common sense gun safety reform measures. The enacted SFY 2018-19 Budget included legislation that would require domestic abusers to surrender all guns, including both handguns and long guns, closing a loophole in New York State law.
In keeping with his belief in pursuing holistic, consensus driven solutions, Speaker Heastie formed work groups to explore options for meaningful and sustainable investments for issues like child care and climate change. Additionally, he convened public hearings that were instrumental in creating the framework for a multi-billion dollar investment in the 2017-2018 Budget for water quality infrastructure and remediation.
Speaker Heastie represents the 83rd A.D. in the northeast Bronx and was first elected to the Assembly in 2000. Prior to becoming Assembly Speaker, he scored a victory for public health when he championed the passage of a law that prohibited the sale of water containing nicotine to children under 18 years old. He also authored a law to help victims of domestic violence by releasing them from lease obligations if it is found that remaining in the residence would keep the victim in a dangerous environment. He has been one of the state legislature’s leading advocates for the construction of new schools and his vigilance led to the development of several new schools in his district. In addition, he secured significant funding for housing, education, after school programming, health and human services, jobs readiness and computer training for constituents. As a result of his decades-long mission to securing a safe, modern place for families and residents of the Bronx to enjoy, Speaker Heastie was instrumental in efforts that led to the New York City Economic Development Corporation’s 2016 announcement that a new state-of-the-art YMCA facility would be constructed in the Edenwald neighborhood of the Bronx. In August 2018, the project officially broke ground and is expected to open in early 2020. The facility has brought 100 new construction jobs, with a 35 percent MWBE contracting goal for design and construction, and will deliver 100 new permanent jobs. Once completed, the new YMCA will provide a wide array of family-friendly activities and recreational space for youth.
Prior to joining the Assembly, Speaker Heastie served as a budget analyst in the New York City Comptroller’s office. He earned a master’s degree in business administration with a concentration in finance from Baruch College of CUNY and a bachelor’s degree in applied mathematics and statistics from Stony Brook University (SUNY).