N.Y. Assembly Speaker enraged by state GOP amid raise the age conflict, considers meeting warring Dem senators
ALBANY — In a move sure to raise eyebrows, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie is seriously considering getting the warring Senate Democratic factions in the same room to talk about progressive issues, the Daily News has learned.
Heastie, who rarely gets involved in the other chamber’s internal politics, is livid with what he felt were mistruths Senate Republicans uttered about the Assembly Democratic push to raise the age from 16 to 18 that teens can be charged criminally as adults.
In laying blame for the late state budget, a half-dozen Senate Republicans Monday accused the Assembly Democrats of refusing to compromise on the raise-the-age issue in order to protect teen rapists and murderers, something Heastie in a statement vehemently denied.
A source familiar with Heastie’s thinking said the speaker was so offended he is now thinking about getting in a room to discuss matters with the three warring Senate Democratic factions — mainline Democratic leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Jeffrey Klein, who heads a group of eight breakaway Democrats who are aligned in a leadership coalition with the Republicans, and Simcha Felder, a Brooklyn Democrat who actually caucuses with the GOP.
Progressive groups have regularly been calling on the Senate Dems to reunify, but Heastie always took a pass, saying he’s focused on his own chamber. That may soon change.
“These statements were deliberate lies and clearly coordinated,” a source close to Heastie said of the Senate GOP.
“Given that, he is seriously considering sitting down with Jeff, Andrea and Simcha and discuss their mutual interests and issues. It would be an attempt to have a good, productive dialogue and see where the conversation goes.”
The source stopped short of saying Heastie would push the Dems to reunify.
At this point, even if all the Democrats were unified, it would not be enough to control the chamber since there are currently 31 Dems and 31 Republicans, with one vacancy that is expected to be filled by a Democrat following a May special election.
The Republicans hold a slim majority because Felder sits with them.
Klein spokeswoman Candice Giove wouldn’t say if the Independent Democratic Conference leader would sit down with Heastie, Stewart-Cousins, and Felder.
She said Klein (D-Bronx) spoke to Heastie Monday night about the remaining budget issues “and (the speaker) didn’t say a word about it.”
Stewart-Cousins spokesman Mike Murphy said his boss would be open to such meeting.
“These disgusting comments by the Republicans show why it is so dangerous to empower them and as we’ve always said, all Democrats should work together,” Murphy said.
Felder and Heastie couldn’t be reached for comment.
Heastie issued a statement blasting the Senate Republicans.
“From the very beginning, I have very clearly stated that our goal was to ensure that young people who are accused of non-violent crimes are not sent to adult criminal court,” he said.
“Unfortunately, some senators have chosen to engage in a fear campaign that falsely accuses Assembly Democrats of coddling murderers and rapists in the context of this issue. Nothing can be further from the truth.”
He said there have been productive discussions with the Senate and governor “so it is disappointing to read these kinds of statements which do not represent the real progress we have made.”
Senate GOP spokesman Scott Reif had no immediate comment on the possibility of Heastie meeting with the different Senate Democratic factions or his anger at the Senate GOP comments.
Disagreements over the raise-the-age issue is a major reason why the state budget is now four days late. To keep government operating, the Legislature on Monday passed emergency legislation put forward by Gov. Cuomo that extends last year’s budget, with modifications, through May 31.