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State Lawmakers Kick Off 'Somos El Futuro' Conference

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With unfinished business from earlier this year, state lawmakers kicked off their Somos El Futuro conference in Puerto Rico Thursday night with a handful of welcoming receptions.

SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO - Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver joined members of his conference for an opening night reception Thursday, one of the few public appearances he's made with members following accusations of sexual harassment against Assemblyman Micah Kellner.

The matter is currently being investigated by both the state's ethics commission, known as JCOPE, and the Assembly ethics committee.

"The matter is before the ethics committee. They will deal with it appropriately," Silver said. "My only involvement was to refer it to the ethics committee."

The allegations against Kellner followed a high-profile harassment case against Vito Lopez, who resigned from the Assembly earlier this year. In both cases, Silver was accused of mishandling or covering up the complaints.

However, according to Democratic members in San Juan, the speaker still has strong support.

"He's got pretty much 100 percent support in the Democratic Conference," said Assemblyman David Weprin of Queens. "He takes a lot of hits for all of us. I know the media loves to beat up on him, but he loves the institution, he loves the Assembly."

"I will serve as the speaker as long as the members want me to serve as speaker," Silver said. "I am privileged to do that."

This is the 26th annual Somos conference in Puerto Rico. The event was canceled last year in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

"I had to make a tough decision to cancel the conference last year," said Assemblyman Felix Ortiz of Brooklyn. "As of now, we have a total of 452 people registered for the conference."

Some of the key issues that Hispanic lawmakers are pushing for in the upcoming legislative session include the DREAM Act, which allows undocumented students to tap into state tuition assistance resources in order to attend college, and allowing illegal immigrants to obtain driver's licenses, a proposal that failed when former Governor Eliot Spitzer once pushed for it.

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