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New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver Honored

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July 17, 2012

New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver Honored with National Excellence in State Leadership Award

Prestigious William M. Bulger Excellence in State Leadership Award to be Presented to Speaker Sheldon Silver at NCSL Legislative Summit in Chicago

Speaker Sheldon SilverState legislators don’t always agree on matters of public policy, but in New York, there is respect on both sides of the aisle for Speaker Sheldon Silver’s leadership in the Assembly. In recognition of his leadership, Speaker Silver will be presented with the William M. Bulger Excellence in State Leadership Award at the National Conference of State Legislatures’ (NCSL) annual Legislative Summit in Chicago on Aug. 7.

“It’s an honor to be presenting this prestigious award to such a worthy recipient,” said William T. Pound, executive director of the National Conference of State Legislatures. “Since 1994, Speaker Silver has led the New York Assembly with great distinction. His leadership has been invaluable to New York, especially during the aftermath of the horrific attacks on the World Trade Center, which occurred in his assembly district, and the political upheaval following the resignation of a governor. It is also a testament to Speaker Silver that he is widely respected by legislative colleagues on both sides of the aisle.”

"I am honored to receive this award and be cited for ‘excellence' by a committee of my national peers," said New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. "I have what I think is one of the best jobs in the world: leading the New York State Assembly – an independent, member-driven institution, and this award tells me that we are doing something right here in the Empire State.  I am truly humbled, because I have tried very hard to live up to the ideals of the Bulger Award – integrity, passion, vision, and courage. It is a privilege to be listed alongside the previous award winners – all true public servants who have had distinguished careers."

The Excellence in State Legislative Leadership Award is presented semi-annually to a leader who has worked to preserve and build public trust in the institution of the state legislature and whose career embodies the highest principles of leadership. The award is presented jointly by NCSL and the State Legislative Leaders Foundation (SLLF).

Sheldon Silver was first elected in 1976 to represent the Lower Manhattan community where he was born, raised and continues to reside. Silver was elected speaker of the New York State Assembly in 1994, and is the longest serving Democratic speaker in the history of the state. During his tenure, Speaker Silver initiated a historic overhaul of Assembly rules to strengthen the committee process, expand the role of rank-and-file members and improve accountability and transparency. Speaker Silver instituted a modern framework for conference committees to resolve differences in legislation between the Assembly and Senate. He sponsored comprehensive reforms to create independent ethics oversight . He is responsible for negotiating extensive reforms to the statutes governing the state budget process and instituting requirements to promote timeliness and public involvement in the legislative process. The speaker also led a successful effort to televise all legislative proceedings, which are now streamed online and are available to cable television subscribers throughout New York.

“He is a master negotiator who, most recently, has partnered with a Democratic governor and reached across the aisle to Republicans in the Senate and in the Assembly Minority to nurture consensus and to craft meaningful legislation that often serves as a model for lawmakers across the nation,” said New York Assembly Majority Leader Ronald Canestrari (D).

Canestrari went on to say, “It should also be noted that Speaker Silver is the assemblyman who represents the World Trade Center, so I can say without reservation, that no state legislative leader in the nation has undertaken greater challenges while simultaneously doing more to defend and transform the legislative process, than has our speaker.” In the aftermath of 9/11, Speaker Silver procured a mobile command center and set out to assist his constituents with their day-to-day needs, from obtaining groceries, fresh water and prescription drugs, to handling legal matters and communication with family members outside of New York City.

“Although we often disagree on policy, the speaker has been respectful of those differences and willing to engage in open dialogue to reach consensus on important issues facing our State,” said New York Assembly Minority Leader Brian M. Kolb (R). “During the last two budget cycles, Speaker Silver has worked with the governor and Legislature to reach a compromise that closed a multimillion dollar budget deficit. During these difficult financial times, he skillfully built consensus amongst the diverse members of the Legislature, which led to the development of a stable financial plan for the betterment of all New Yorkers.”

“As the minority leader, having the honor and privilege of representing my Republican colleagues in the Assembly, I truly respect Speaker Silver as a man of integrity, honesty and intellectual quality, and I am proud to call him my friend,” said former New York Assembly Minority Leader Thomas M. Reynolds (R).

“The speaker understands and is sensitive to the needs of the 150 distinct districts of the Empire State. He embraces and promotes diversity and takes the time to understand the issues that are important to each member. While leading a conference comprised of a broad spectrum of opinions and experiences, he enables the House to speak as one strong, independent voice,” said New York Assemblywoman Helene E. Weinstein (D).

The Excellence in State Legislative Leadership Award was founded in 1996. NCSL and SLLF first honored William M. Bulger, former president of the Massachusetts Senate, for his distinguished career in public service and particularly for his commitment to protecting and strengthening the institution of the state legislature. The winner is selected by an independent, nonpartisan selection committee of legislators, former legislators, scholars, and representatives of the two sponsoring organizations.


NCSL is a bipartisan organization that serves the legislators and staffs of the states, commonwealths and territories. It provides research, technical assistance and opportunities for policymakers to exchange ideas on the most pressing state issues and is an effective and respected advocate for the interests of the states in the American federal system.


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