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Nassau GOP, Dems talk togetherness in tough fiscal times

Words of bipartisan togetherness flowed from lawmakers during the swearing-in ceremony of the 19-member Nassau County Legislature amid warnings that the county could face dire financial problems.

"[This year] could be a challenging year for Nassau County," newly minted Republican County Executive Edward Mangano told the audience of about 400 people at the ceremony in the county's Cradle of Aviation Museum. "We have to find ways to work together to bring relief to the taxpayer."

Mangano, a member of the Legislature since its inception 14 years ago, said: "I understand your obligation to your districts, and I ask you to understand the obligation we have to all of Nassau County."

Peter Schmitt (R-Massapequa), was sworn in by Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), and vowed that "none of the solutions to the county's problems will include more tax or fee increases."

Schmitt, who will head the 11-8 GOP majority, added that "we could fight and argue Republican and Democrat, county executive and legislature, but before we do, we all must remember that we must first be fighting for each one of our constituents, who demand a county government which is affordable and accessible."

He said that the Republicans' campaign agendas were not hollow promises but carefully thought-out strategies to cut spending. "Increased spending has crippled this suburban county, limiting its capability to grow," Schmitt said.

He vowed to introduce legislation to reverse an action of the Democratic majority and former County Executive Thomas Suozzi, who did not attend the event, that allowed the contracting out of some county parks to private operators. "The sole use of our parks system should and will be returned to the residents of our county, who have paid for them," he said.

Schmitt promised to treat the new minority delegation with respect. He took a few pokes in jest at Suozzi, a Democrat, but concluded that "although we often disagreed, I always recognized his dedication to this county."

Former presiding officer Diane Yatauro (D-Glen Cove), now minority leader, said her caucus would work with Mangano and the GOP majority.

Schmitt and the Republicans, at an afternoon legislative session, tinkered with some rules, the most significant of which was to move committee meetings to a day separate from the general legislative session. The majority also reduced committees from 16 to 11 - one to be chaired by each of them. In addition, as few as one or two members of a committee can now hold districtwide hearings on an issue.

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