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The Nassau legislature voted unanimously this past Monday to name its meeting chamber for the late Presiding Officer Peter Schmitt (R-Massapequa), but only after Republicans rejected Democrats' proposed amendment to make it the Peter J. Schmitt-Barbara Johnson Memorial Legislative Chamber.
Johnson, a Democrat from Port Washington, was an original member of the first legislature, which took office in 1996. The mother of former State Senator Craig Johnson, she died of cancer soon after Democrats won the Nassau legislative majority in 2000.
Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) said, “We would be remiss if we didn’t recognize the fact that Barbara Johnson also was one of the originators of this body and was in office until she lost her life.”
But Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) said the legislature could name another spot in Mineola for Johnson.
“Peter Schmitt was our presiding officer,” she said. “He served for 17 years. Literally and figuratively, he died on the job.
“This chamber should be named in his honor. This doesn’t preclude that we cannot find another appropriate place for Barbara Johnson. She was a dear friend to all of us. She was a fine legislator and a lady.”
Legis. Wayne Wink (D-Roslyn), who was Barbara Johnson's legislative aide, said he looked forward to working with Gonsalves to find something to honor Johnson "to remind people we have had other members that have died as active members of the legislature."