New York Assembly speaker to be replaced next week: NYT

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 27, 2015 9:37 PM

(Reuters) - New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver will be replaced next week by a state lawmaker as he fights federal corruption charges, the New York Times newspaper reported on Tuesday, citing Democratic lawmakers.

Rochester-area Assemblyman Joseph Morelle, the majority leader and a top pick to succeed Silver on a permanent basis, is to take over as interim speaker on Monday, the newspaper said. Lawmakers are to choose a new leader in an election set for Feb. 10.

"I will not hinder the process. I believe very deeply in the institution," Silver told reporters as he exited the capitol in Albany late on Tuesday, a spokesman said.

The replacement was announced after a meeting of Democrats in Albany, the Times said.

Silver agreed on Sunday to relinquish his duties on a temporary basis amid mounting pressure from his fellow Democrats in the Assembly, who worried that the criminal charges would impair his ability to carry out the duties of one of the most powerful positions in New York's government, the Times reported.

Earlier this month, the 70-year-old Democrat, who has served as the highest-ranking state assemblyman since 1994, was charged with pocketing $4 million from bribery and kickback schemes.

Federal prosecutors launched a federal grand jury investigation of Silver in 2013. At least nine other current or former state legislators have been criminally charged by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara's office since 2009.

Silver, among Albany's most powerful men and speaker of the state Assembly since 1994, has been a leading voice in Albany for years of negotiations over state budgets and key legislation.

Morelle, 57, was first elected to the Assembly in 1990.

The next speaker will lead the Democratic-controlled Assembly in budget negotiations with Governor Andrew Cuomo and the State Senate, which is Republican-held, against a April 1 deadline, the Times said.A representative for Silver did not immediately provide further details beyond his statement. Representatives for Joseph Morelle did not immediately return phone messages.

(Reporting by Eric M. Johnson; Editing by Eric Walsh)