With Democrats Taking Power, Brooklyn Senators Head Committees

When incoming state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins was deciding on committee chairmanships for the new legislative session, she must have had Brooklyn on her mind.

Stewart-Cousins tapped several of the borough’s state senators, all Democrats, to serve as chairpersons of key committees and subcommittees, giving them the opportunity to have a hand in deciding which pieces of legislation make it to the Senate floor for a vote in the 2019 legislative session that begins in early January. She announced the committee leaders on Tuesday.

Two senators, Diane Savino — who represents Coney Island and parts of Bensonhurst — and Kevin Parker — who represents East Flatbush, Flatbush and Midwood — will be heading legislative panels dealing with technology. Savino will chair the Subcommittee on Internet and Technology. Parker has been named chairperson of the Energy and Telecommunications Committee.

Savino said she is looking forward to her new role overseeing a subcommittee that will deal with issues touching so many aspects of modern life.

“With new innovative startups sprouting up everyday that change the way we live, we in the legislature must ensure that our laws here in New York keep up with those changes. Just over the last decade we have seen our entire way of life change dramatically thanks to these innovations, such as ride sharing, social media and mobile banking, all of which come with the growing privacy concerns we face constantly. We have also seen the growth of the gig economy that has had a profound effect on workers rights,” she said in a statement.

Parker shared his reaction on Twitter. “This is a huge honor and I look forward to working with committee members on important issues #CleanEnergy and #GreenCollarJobs,” he tweeted.

Stewart-Cousins will become the majority leader thanks to the Democrats winning the majority of seats in the Senate in the Nov. 6 election, wresting control of the legislative chamber from Republicans.

Many political pundits were surprised Stewart-Cousins gave a subcommittee to Savino, given that Savino was a leading member of the now-defunct Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), a group of breakaway Democrats who sided with Republicans and denied Democrats control of the legislative chamber.

State Sen. Simcha Felder, a Democrat who represents Borough Park, was not an IDC member but also sided with the GOP in previous sessions. He was not given a committee chairmanship by Stewart-Cousins.

In the first real demonstration of her power, Stewart-Cousins found a way to reward newcomers.

Senator-elect Andrew Gounardes, who defeated Republican Marty Golden, a 16-year incumbent, in the Senate district covering Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and other Southwest Brooklyn neighborhoods, will chair the Civil Service and Pensions Committee.

“Civil service is fundamental to how our state functions. For our valued state employees who are now retired or have devoted a substantial portion of their professional lives to the public sector, pension payments must always be non-negotiable. In my role as chair, I will always stand up for our civil servants and put the people first to ensure that the choices we make today help to secure the financial security of all those who serve the public,” Gounardes said in a statement.

Senator-elect Zellnor Myrie, who will represent Crown Heights, parts of Park Slope and Sunset Park, was rewarded for beating state Sen. Jesse Hamilton, an IDC member, by being named chairperson of the Elections Committee.

Another member of the incoming freshman class, Senator-elect Julia Salazar, who will represent Bushwick, who ousted longtime incumbent state Sen. Martin Dilan, has been tapped to chair the Subcommittee on Women’s Health.

State Sen. Roxanne Persaud — whose district includes Canarsie, East New York and Brownsville, will chair the Social Services Committee. State Sen. Velmanette Montgomery — whose district includes Bedford Stuyvesant, Fort Greene and Boerum Hill, will head the Committee on Children and Families. State Sen. Brian Kavanagh — who represents Brooklyn Heights — will be the new chairperson of the Housing Committee.

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