ALBANY–Scratch that reform off the list.
Newly-installed Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said this afternoon that he is not interested in creating term limits for the speaker position, scuttling at least one reform sought by some Assembly members and good government advocates.
“I’m not a big fan of term limits. I think voters and the people and the members should decide who their leaders are but it’s something that we will discuss as I promised,” Mr. Heastie told the Observer at the first press conference after his election.
Mr. Heastie’s Democratic colleagues elected him speaker today to replace Sheldon Silver, the once powerful Manhattan Democrat who held the post for 21 years. Mr. Silver was forced to give up the speakership after he was arrested on corruption charges in January.
Since Mr. Silver’s downfall, some Assembly members have spoken about instituting a wide variety of new reforms in the body, including term limits for the speaker and committee chairs. Mr. Heastie said today he was committed to certain reforms, like empowering individual members during the budget process and reforming how per diems are doled out, but made it clear he did not want to term limit himself.
Mr. Heastie’s first press conference was not smooth. Reporters revolted when Mr. Heastie left the podium after taking only three questions. Mr. Heastie eventually returned to answer a volley of questions, speaking in a low, raspy voice that could be difficult to hear over the commotion of people in neighboring hallways.
Mr. Heastie and his colleagues were criticized for holding a vote one week earlier than planned and conducting the negotiations to make his victory possible in private. But Mr. Heastie, insisting he can carry the mantle of reform, dismissed those concerns.
“We have to remember this is a representative democracy and sometimes I think members of the press forget that,” Mr. Heastie said. “106 members of this conference were elected to do what just what we’ve done. The voting is supposed to be in public but conference discussions stay within the conference.”