Nassau Democratric lawmakers on Thursday criticized Republican Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves for her repeated refusal to call their proposals to the floor of the legislature for public debate and vote.
At a news conference in Mineola, the Democrats cited 13 bills they have filed this year without acknowledgment from the GOP majority — many of them also put forward in previous years.
The proposals include: raising the minimum age to buy tobacco products to 21; exempting low-income seniors and veterans from incurring fees for police responses to false home security alarms; and banning the sale of personal-care products containing environmentally damaging “microbeads.”
“These are bills that have passed in Suffolk County, in New York City, and we cannot even get a debate,” said Legis. Judy Jacobs (D-Woodbury).
Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) responded in a statement that Democrats’ bills don’t advance because they “fail on legal, financial or policy grounds, are sloppily drafted, and show no regard for the financial impact on taxpayers and businesses.”
The rules of Nassau County’s legislature, since its inception in 1996, have given the presiding officer sole discretion over placing filed resolutions onto legislative meeting agendas.
This differs from Suffolk, where any bill — even ones filed by minority members — makes it to a legislative committee agenda. Minority proposals often fail, but sponsors get the chance to argue for them and rally supporters.
In Nassau, Republicans now control the legislature with a 12-7 majority. Jacobs, who was presiding officer for most of the period that Democrats led the chamber, from 2000 to 2009, acknowledged she may not have called every GOP bill during that time, but said she often put them on agendas for debate and possible bipartisan support.
Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) said he didn’t expect Republicans to always support their bills, but simply wanted a chance for them to be publicly aired.
When asked why he thought Gonsalves was not placing Democrats’ bills on public meeting agendas, he replied: “It’s partisan politics. It’s about which party gets credit.”