Political moves and votes at Nassau legislature

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Spin Cycle

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It's been an upside-down day Monday at the Nassau Legislature, as a Republican lawmaker is voting with Democrats against raising fees, and an expelled Democratic legislator is voting with Republicans on some items.

Legis. Michael Venditto (R-Massapequa), who is running for state senate against fellow Legis. David Denenberg (D-Merrick), has voted against the first few of myriad fee increases proposed by Rebublican County Executive Edward Mangano to help pay for the end of a three-year wage freeze on county employees.

It was assumed that Denenberg, who contends the fee hikes are hidden tax increases, would attempt to use Venditto's votes against him in the campaign if Venditto had voted in favor of the increases.

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At the same time, however, Legis. Ellen Birnbaum (D-Great Neck), has voted with Republicans on several of the items. Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) expelled Birnbaum from the Democratic delegation for making racially derogatory comments to staff. She has apologized for her "insensitive" remarks.

Abrahams, who is running a primary for the Democratic nomination for Congress against District Attorney Kathleen Rice, has said that he wants Birnbaum to resign, but she has refused.

The day began with Abrahams moving Birnbaum's seat to the very end of the legislative dias. It had been one seat from the end. Seating is generally based on seniority, which had put Legis. Siela Bynoe (D-Westbury) at the far end. At Abrahams’ direction, the two legislators basically switched seats.

Asked why he directed the seating change, Abrahams said through a spokeswoman, “She no longer is part of our Democratic caucus so we wanted the members of the Democratic caucus to be able to sit together for communication and cohesion.”

Mini-mayhem continued. After a new item to increase some park fees was called,  Claudia Borecky, a South Shore activist and former legislative aide to Denenberg, asked Venditto during public comment why he had been absent from the earlier Finance Committee vote on fee increases.

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"You could have stopped these fees in committee" she said, accusing Venditto of campaigning at a Wantagh  High School event when he should have been voting.

Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow), stepped in to cut off Borecky, scolding her for bringing politics into the discussion.

Abrahams objected. "It's a fair question to ask, where somebody was during a vote. Some of us are running for higher office. If I missed a vote, it is totally fair game."

Gonsalves shushed Legis. Fran Becker (R-Lynbrook), who was attempting to interject, and called for a vote. Venditto voted against the higher park fees, which passed by a 10-9 vote.

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