It’s official: New York Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins of Westchester has made political history, becoming the first woman to become the majority leader of the State Senate when she was sworn in on Wednesday.
"When you think about it, not that long ago, women weren’t even allowed to walk on the floor of this chamber,” the Senator representing Yonkers said shortly after taking the Senate gavel on the opening day of the state Legislature's 2019 session. "I stand here the first woman leader of a legislative house in state history. And if we do this right, I cannot and will not be the last."
Stewart-Cousins, 68, transitions from a minority leader of the Senate to its majority leader after Democrats seized control of the chamber on Election Day.
“As I reflect on what this day means, I think of opportunities and barriers. I think of all the giants whose names we know, Sojourner, Harriet, Susan and Eleanor, to name just a few, whose sacrifices have made this moment possible,” she said. “I also think about the giants of my life.”
The new majority leader has promised a “lengthy progressive agenda,” which will include the passage of bills that include abortion, gun control, campaign financing, voting, contract oversight and bail reform. She has also promised to prioritize making the state’s property tax cap permanent.
“I stand here the first woman leader of a legislative house in state history-And if we do this right, I cannot and will not be the last. And let my voice be clear: we need to deal with the scourge of sexual harassment in the workplace. We cannot let this moment and this movement pass and we will hold hearings and hold all accountable.”
Her colleagues have been quick to accept Stewart-Cousins as their new majority leader.
“I voted for Andrea Stewart-Cousins. She made history, 241 years in the making, and it is only the beginning,” Sen. David Carlucci said. “We will change people’s lives for the better through the policies we institute. Looking forward to a partner in a government dedicated to paving a better path forward for New York.”
Other promises Stewart-Cousins made includes improvements to New York’s infrastructure and a restructuring of the MTA, “restoring it to an international transit model.”
“We will have bold investments in our infrastructure, which has been neglected for too long. That means restoring the MTA to an international transit model and improving roads, bridges, and tunnels across our great state,” she said. “And we believe in science and understand the dangers of climate change. We are going to work together to protect our environment.
“This is just part of an ambitious agenda. There is nothing to stop us and there is so much more that we have to accomplish. But we were sent here to be ambitious, to make New York a beacon of hope and progress for the rest of our country.
“As I said at the beginning, our leaders have always been at a crossroads as Senators, New Yorkers, and as Americans. We can choose the path of putting up barriers, or we can choose the path of creating opportunities. By delivering this diverse, talented, and historic group of Senators to Albany – the people of our great state have made it crystal clear which path they expect us to take.”
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