Dan Janison has been a reporter at Newsday since 1997.
A unique new round of deal making between Assembly Deputy Speaker Earlene Hooper (D-Hempstead) and Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano surfaced in the frenzied final hours of the Albany legislative session.
At least some of it seemed to involve a 2011 pact between the two that appeared consummated, at least partially, only this week. Three years ago, Hooper and Republican Mangano took the offbeat step of privately signing and notarizing a legal memo of understanding. Under its terms, she would stop blocking a sales-tax reauthorization for the county and he would budget an extra $500,000 each for the villages of Hempstead and Freeport. The money, both sides said, was supposed to help make up for historic underfunding to those villages.
The tax measure was enacted that June as expected. Yet when time came to pay the villages, Nassau Comptroller George Maragos refused. In part, his office cited the fact that Hooper ultimately voted against the tax bill en route to its being signed into law.
The Hooper-Mangano document had thus become a memo of misunderstanding.
But in Mineola this week, the Nassau Legislature suddenly approved an "emergency" measure that sends $540,000 to Hempstead this year, and another $84,800 next year. This comes in the form of a contract, paid as a "grant" from the county's hotel/motel tax. County officials say it represents the half-million dollars Hempstead was ultimately denied in the 2011 deal -- plus another $124,800.
Hooper, in turn, introduced legislation in the Assembly, backed by Mangano and the county legislature, that would allow the county to create a new system for paying commercial property tax refunds. Lawmakers in Mineola said her action allowed them to rush through "home-rule" messages of their own this week that were required for one of four versions of the refund bill to clear the State Legislature. Further action in Albany was still pending Thursday.
For many years, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) has enabled Hooper to exercise power over Long Island legislation. In the Senate, supreme local clout belongs to GOP leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), a putative Mangano ally.
Other measures of interest to Hooper and Mangano remained in play as the session waned.
For one, Mangano supported a Hooper-backed bill to transfer the Freeport Armory to a local nonprofit group. But Freeport Mayor Robert Kennedy opposes it, and while both state houses approved legislation with the same aim last year, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo vetoed it.
For another, lawmakers in Mineola this week voted with Mangano's support to approve giving Freeport and Hempstead villages approval power over payments in lieu of taxes granted by town and county industrial development agencies, a bill sponsored in Albany by Hooper (who did not return a call for comment to her office Thursday). There were late reports of objections to the bill from the Town of Hempstead.
Mangano was also seeking to renew state authorizations for red-light cameras in the county that expire in December.
Only once the dust settles from the Capitol's annual rush to adjourn will the success or failure of all this Mangano-Hooper diplomacy come clear.