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Suffolk legislature lets Republicans lead two committees

Presiding Officer Robert Calarco (D-Patchogue) calls a meeting

Presiding Officer Robert Calarco (D-Patchogue) calls a meeting to order at the Suffolk County Legislature on Wednesday. Credit: Morgan Campbell

Suffolk County Legis. Robert Calarco, in one of his first acts as presiding officer, has restructured legislative committees and given Republicans chairmanships on them for the first time in a decade, officials said.

Calarco (D-Patchogue), who became presiding officer Jan. 2, said he gave more leadership roles to Republicans — including three vice chair positions, up from just one last term — as part of his commitment to “make sure we’re working together in a way to move the county forward.”

Two Republicans, Minority Leader Tom Cilmi (R-Bay Shore) and Legis. Kevin McCaffrey (R-Lindenhurst), will each chair a committee.

Democrats, who have a 9-8 advantage over Republicans, still dominate committees and will chair 10 of 12 of them.

Committees are where lawmakers discuss legislation, make compromises and decide the fate of bills before a full legislature meeting.

Cilmi, who will chair the new fire, rescue and emergency medical services and preparedness committee, said giving Republicans more committee assignments is “a largely symbolic gesture, but the symbolism is important.”

The last time a Republican chaired a committee was 2010, Cilmi said.

McCaffrey, who will chair the newly combined education and labor committee, said, “It’s the dawn of a new day, where maybe we get along and open up some bipartisanship.”

Some of the committees were also restructured to align certain issues, such as through combining housing with economic development issues, education with labor, and diversity with government operations and personnel, Calarco said. Rescue services were previously discussed in the public safety committee, which will now focus on law enforcement.

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