New York State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie temporarily stopped voting in the chamber on Tuesday due to concerns over leaks to news media organizations regarding a contentious March 11 meeting of Democratic lawmakers. Heastie’s move followed the publication of a Yahoo News story that detailed the meeting of the Assembly Democratic conference on the subject of the potential impeachment of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
“Government was shut down,” one lawmaker said of Heastie’s apparent reaction to the Yahoo News story. “He came out onto the floor in the middle of voting and said the session is done.”
Heastie interrupted the session as Assembly members were voting on the HALT Act, which would end solitary confinement in New York state. Due to the pandemic, voting was taking place via videoconference as well as in the Assembly chamber. According to the lawmaker, who requested anonymity due to Heastie’s anger over leaks, the speaker did not initially explain why he had stopped the Assembly session.
The speaker’s decision to stop the vote came after Yahoo News reached out to him for comment on a story based on audio of a March 11 meeting about Cuomo. In that meeting, the Democratic conference discussed whether to impeach the governor in response to multiple allegations of sexual misconduct and an alleged cover-up of nursing home deaths during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic last year. During that videoconference, Heastie cited “due process” and said he had decided to conduct a preliminary investigation to determine whether to move forward with a formal impeachment. While the majority of the Assembly Democrats in the meeting agreed with Heastie, others argued he was “buying time” for the governor, who is also a Democrat.
Heastie and his office did not respond to requests for comment. During the March 11 conference, Heastie and other members of the Assembly expressed their frustration about prior leaks of their internal debates on Cuomo.
“I think whoever did that is a coward for going outside of this conference and doing something like that, and I just want to say it on the record. This shit needs to stop,” Heastie said.
A second lawmaker, who also requested anonymity, said Heastie stopped the Tuesday afternoon HALT Act vote “right in the middle” and “took everybody” into a virtual room. The second lawmaker said Heastie told the Assembly Democrats they “can’t be trusted” and that he would no longer hold meetings with the full conference. Instead, Heastie said he would meet with smaller groups to keep track of what was said and any potential leaks. According to the lawmaker, voting on the HALT Act resumed following the conversation about leaks.
“He was angrier than he’s ever been,” the second lawmaker said of Heastie.
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