ALBANY — Debate over a routine end-of-session bill sponsored by Assemb. Andrew Raia to help a local church became one of the most emotional moments of the last day of the legislative session.
Raia (R-Huntington) announced that the bill, to help Saint Paraskevi Greek Orthodox Shrine Church in a property tax exemption matter, would likely be his last after 17 years in the legislature. He’s running to succeed his mother, Jo-Ann Raia, as Huntington town clerk. If he wins, he won’t return to serve the final year of the current term.
His colleagues — Republicans and Democrats, urban and suburban, young and veteran — gave him a rousing send off around midnight Thursday. They cited him as a Republican leader trying to work in a bipartisan manner.
“You are a brother from a Republican mother,” Assemb. Philip Ramos (D-Brentwood) quipped.
“They don’t come any better, and I’m going to miss you, very much,” Assemb. Joseph Lentol (D-Brooklyn) said.
Assemb. Andrew Garbarino (R-Sayville) noted Raia was one of the first Republicans to go on the annual Somos Conference in Puerto Rico, begun and long dominated by Latino and African American legislators. Now, many Republicans join them, Garbarino said.
Several poked fun at Raia for breaking down and crying over his last lunch in Albany on Thursday. He got teary when talking to a vendor/pal at one his favorite food trucks that always line West Capitol Park and ordering his maybe last custom-made cheese steak.
As a minority party legislator in the Democratic-led Assembly, Raia had little opportunity to pass major bills. Instead, he focused on bringing aid and programs to his district. He singled out Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) in his short farewell.
“I’d like to thank Speaker Heastie,” Raia said. “The best compliment I can probably give you is to say you are the same humble guy I became friends with 17 years ago … thank you for treating our side of the aisle with dignity and respect.”
Raia’s bill for Saint Paraskevi passed through committees and a floor vote without a negative vote.