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Suffolk panel: No loosening of residency rules

A Suffolk legislative committee Thursday dealt a blow to County Executive Steve Bellone as it tabled a bill to allow him to hire appointees who live off Long Island.

Currently, political appointees must live in the county or in Nassau, and anyone else must get a one-year waiver from the county legislature.

Bellone has two aides who are New York City residents, whose waivers will expire soon. His staff told the government operations committee that allowing city residents to serve would "encourage an expansive range of individuals" to seek Suffolk's open jobs.

Legislators argued that Bellone should be able to find qualified candidates from Nassau and Suffolk.

"I find it highly offensive," Legis. John M. Kennedy Jr. (R-Nesconset) said of the bill, pointing to local unemployment rates of about 6 percent.

Unless Bellone can get 10 lawmakers to sign a petition to bring the bill up at the final legislative meeting on Tuesday, the residency bill will have to be introduced again in 2014. The vote to table was 4-2, with one abstention.

Deputy County Executive Jon Schneider said he was unsure of the administration's next step. To get the item in front of legislators at their final general meeting on Tuesday, Bellone would need to get 10 lawmakers to sign a petition.

"We're keeping our options open to make sure we have the ability, in limited instances, to hire highly qualified individuals from outside Suffolk County," he said.

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