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The Latest: NY Senate gets first female leader

January 9, 2019

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The Latest on the first day of the 2019 New York legislative session (all times local):

2:50 p.m.

For the first time the New York state Senate is now led by a woman.

Democrat Andrea Stewart-Cousins of Yonkers formally took over as Senate majority leader Wednesday, the first day of the 2019 legislative session. Stewart-Cousins’ party wrested Senate control from Republicans in last Novembers’ elections.

In the Assembly, Democratic Speaker Carl Heastie was re-elected, making it the first time both legislative chambers are led by African Americans.

Democrats now hold both chambers for the first time in a decade. They promise to pass several bills long blocked by the Senate’s former Republican leaders, including ones tightening campaign finance limits, codifying abortion rights and giving molestation victims more time to sue their abusers.

Other top issues this year include marijuana legalization, sports betting and congestion tolls in Manhattan.

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1:45 p.m.

The New York state Legislature has started its 2019 session with Andrea Stewart-Cousins making history by formally taking over as leader of the now-Democrat-controlled Senate and Carl Heastie again being elected speaker of the Assembly.

Stewart-Cousins, a Yonkers Democrat, is the first woman to lead a legislative chamber in New York. Heastie, a Bronx Democrat, was elected Wednesday for the third time to lead the Democrat-controlled Assembly.

The Legislature’s formal start in Albany kicks off 61 session days spread over a six-month work period expected to be dominated by debates over marijuana legalization, congestion tolls in Manhattan and making it easier for New Yorkers to vote.

Senate Republicans controlled the 63-seat chamber for the past decade thanks to eight renegade Democrats who voted with the GOP conference. The November elections put Democrats back in power.

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