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Nassau passes $2.98B budget, plan to create gun offender registry

Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos is seen on

Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos is seen on Oct. 8, 2014. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Democrats in the Nassau County Legislature have won approval of several long-sought programs -- including a gun offender registry and use of unclaimed jail funds for social services -- in exchange for voting to borrow more than $300 million to pay backlogged property tax refunds.

The bills were passed at a legislative meeting Wednesday night, with little public discussion, as lawmakers adopted a $2.98 billion 2015 budget after hours of private negotiations.

Republican County Executive Edward Mangano and the legislature's 11-member GOP majority signed off on the measures after the eight Democrats joined them to approve $127 million in bonds this year to start addressing Nassau's long-standing property tax backlog. They also agreed to borrow $178 million from 2015 to 2017 for the same purpose.

"We thought they were worthy enough bills earlier this year and we're glad to see there was some compromise to get them passed unanimously," Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) said Friday of the Democratic caucus' proposals.

Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) said she supported the Democratic measures, despite her reluctance earlier this year, "as a part of the agreement to get consensus on the budget."

The gun registry bill was first proposed in March, but stalled when Republicans questioned whether Nassau had jurisdiction over firearms laws. It creates an online database of individuals convicted of gun crimes in Nassau, listing the offender's photo, home address, employer and type of gun used.

Offenders must pay $50 biannually to maintain the registry.

The registry, similar to those in place in New York City and Suffolk County, will primarily be available for use by police, but also may be requested by schools. It will not be displayed publicly.

"Requiring dangerous felons to register with the Nassau County Police Department is a community safety measure that will help further protect neighborhoods," Mangano said.

Another bill passed Wednesday was first proposed by Democrats in May. It requires that unclaimed funds from the county jail commissary be directed to social service programs, including for youth, seniors and people with substance addictions, mental health issues and developmental disabilities.

Democrats first made the request after an audit by County Comptroller George Maragos found the jail commissary had accumulated $570,000 in unclaimed funds between 1990 and 2007. Maragos suggested the money be used for youth programs.

Abrahams said the money also could go to charities such as the Long Island Council of Churches' Freeport food pantry, whose leaders said last week might have to close due to county funding cuts.

"These are the types of things we should designate this money for," Abrahams said.

The legislature also approved a bill that mandates training of all Nassau police officers in the use of opioid antidotes, which have saved hundreds of lives since they became available several years ago, according to police.

Mangano said all patrol officers are already receiving the training, but it will now be law.

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