The sudden death of Presiding Officer Peter Schmitt leaves the Nassau County Legislature with a 9-9 split only weeks before lawmakers are due to vote on the 2013 budget.
County Executive Edward Mangano is expected to call for a special election to fill the Massapequa Republican's seat. Until officials set a date for a vote, the seat will remain vacant.
The county charter stipulates that special elections must occur between 30 and 60 days from the date a seat is declared vacant, which is expected to occur Thursday. The general election is Nov. 6. It was unclear whether a special election could be called for that date.
The charter also states that the legislature must adopt a budget no later than Oct. 30, which would leave the chamber deadlocked for that crucial vote. County and legislative officials said they are researching whether passage of the budget could be pushed back by several weeks.
"We are fulfilling our responsibilities and reviewing what needs to happen before the budget can pass," said County Attorney John Ciampoli. "I will present the county executive with his options so that the government can continue to function."
The legislature was expected to hold hearings on the 2013 budget Friday and on Oct. 11. Both meetings have been canceled. The next meeting of the legislature is Oct. 29.
It was unclear whom the two parties will nominate to fill Schmitt's seat. Special nominating conventions are expected to be held in the coming weeks.
Democratic Board of Elections Commissioner William Biamonte said it would be difficult to get ballots for the special election printed in time for the general election. He said he expects a special election to be held several weeks after the general.
Legis. Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow), the chamber's deputy presiding officer, will fill in as the legislature's interim presiding officer. The rules of the legislature stipulate that if there is a vacancy in the office of the presiding officer, the deputy will take over until the next legislative meeting. Gonsalves, elected to the legislature in 1997, did not return calls for comment.
With Celeste Hadrick