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Nassau Legis. Michael Venditto (R-Massapequa) and David Denenberg (D-Merrick), who are running against each other for the State Senate seat vacated by Charles Fuschillo, had their first public debate several weeks ago during a Planning Committee meeting about a bill intended to revive a dormant water resources advisory board.
Venditto, who chairs the committee, said the board was needed to monitor New York City plans to pump water from Long Island. But Denenberg complained that the legislation did not require specific qualifications for the board’s members, saying they could wind up being political appointments by the Republican legislative majority.
“It's an unfair presumption to say that people are just going to vote right along the party lines,” Venditto said.
“Oh, that never happens here,” Denenberg retorted sarcastically.
“We vote ... in the way that we think our residents would want us to vote. It’s a very recent precedent, actually, for a legislator voting against his party in the name of doing what’s right for his residents,” returned Venditto, who had voted against $15 million in fee increases proposed by Republican County Executive Edward Mangano and approved by the other GOP lawmakers.
Denenberg said, “You should have been in committee to stop that vote against fees," referring to Venditto’s absence from a Finance Committee meeting where the fees were approved along a party-line vote.
Venditto promptly turned his focus back to the board: “If we sit on our hands and let New York City come into our county and start dictating what happens with the water supply, then we really are lost.”
On Monday, any possibility of a repeat debate between the two was stopped before it could begin when Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) stopped Denenberg from questioning an amended water bill that was being considered by the full legislature.
After Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) explained changes to the bill, Denenberg tried to jump in with questions. But Abrahams shut him down — an unusual exchange between members of the same party.
“We just went through this with Ms. Gonsalves,” Abrahams interrupted, adding that he would allow no further questioning.
The legislature, including Venditto and Denenberg, then voted 18-0 to revive the water board. Legis. Fran Becker (R-Lynbrook) was absent.
Afterward, Abrahams explained that he cut off Denenberg because the legislature was already running an hour late for a 3 p.m. hearing on a proposed $1 billion deal to privatize the county sewer system. “Norma went into a three- or four-minute thing about the changes in the legislation. I thought she explained it fairly well. Maybe Dave didn’t hear, but he decided to repeat the same questions," Abrahams said.
"Normally I would let Dave go on like that. But we were pressed for time. That’s all that really was.”