Suffolk County's red light camera program could come to an end, in part because no state senator has stepped forward to carry the legislation in Albany. Credit: Newsday Studio

ALBANY — It’s a tale of two counties when it comes to renewing legislation for red light cameras on Long Island.

Nassau County is on track to get its program reauthorized shortly and without fuss. Suffolk County is in limbo — in part because, in an election year for state legislators, no one has stepped forward in the State Senate to carry the legislation in Albany.

“I’m told they are having trouble finding a Senate sponsor,” Assemb. Fred Thiele (D-Sag Harbor), who is carrying the bill in the state Assembly, told Newsday.

Further, Suffolk hasn't even sent the state a “home rule” request to renew the red light cameras, a necessary step when a local jurisdiction wants to implement taxes, fees and other measures.

Meanwhile, the clock is ticking: The State Legislature is set to adjourn for the year no later than next Friday. If no action is taken, authorization for red light cameras in the counties will expire on Dec. 1.

Red light cameras aren’t without controversy. The automated cameras are set up at intersections, nabbing people who don’t stop on red and generating tickets drivers receive in the mail.

Nassau and Suffolk have had a program since 2009, with renewals occurring every five years.

County officials said the cameras deter speeding and reduce crashes. Ticketed drivers have complained about the steep costs — $150 in Nassau, compared with $50 in Suffolk — among other issues.

Nassau expects to receive $48 million in red light camera revenue this year from its 100 monitored intersections. Suffolk has been receiving about $9 million annually from about the same number of intersections, according to a 2022 report.

Earlier this month, the Nassau County Legislature took a legally necessary step of approving a “home rule” message to formally ask for state legislation to renew red light cameras for another five years.

With Republicans controlling Nassau, it’s unofficial custom to have GOP state lawmakers agree to carry the bill in Albany — State Sen. Jack Martins (R-Mineola) and Assemb. Edward Ra (R-Franklin Square) in this case.

Nassau’s legislation is moving through Albany without a blip. The State Senate approved it Thursday, 53-4, and the Assembly plans to follow suit next week.

There wasn’t even any discussion in the Senate when the vote occurred, other than Martins touting traffic safety.

“It has been proven these cameras save lives. They work,” Martins said, adding some constituents would like more cameras installed.

Then, there’s Suffolk.

Democrat Thiele acknowledged some colleagues feel pressure when a local tax or fee renewal needs a legislator to carry it in Albany. He said he agreed to sponsor the Suffolk renewal because he’s the dean of the Suffolk delegation and it’s a straightforward renewal of a law that’s been in place for years.

He’s also not running for reelection.

Thiele formally submitted a bill, but it’s just sitting in the Transportation Committee for now, in part he said because Suffolk hasn’t approved a “home rule” message to renew the cameras.

“I have a bill but I can’t do anything till I get a home rule and I don’t think they want to do a home rule until they get a Senate sponsor,” Thiele said.

Asked about the issue, a spokesman for Suffolk County Executive Edward P. Romaine referred it to a county legislative official, who didn’t respond immediately.

Not everyone would be unhappy if Suffolk’s red light camera authorization expires.

County Legis. Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga), a frequent critic of taxes, fees and spending, said he’d oppose a home rule message or renewal legislation in Albany. “It’s nothing but a money grab,” Trotta said Thursday.

There’s a chance a Suffolk red light camera measure could get tucked into a “big ugly” bill — a wide-ranging piece of legislation that often combines multiple unrelated issues so lawmakers can make compromises to get things through while deflecting heat on any one proposal — on the final day of the state legislative session.

But that’s not typically how local tax or fee renewals — county sales tax, or the 911 surcharge, for example — get approved in Albany. Usually, those are done as standalone bills.

Said a Senate source: “There’s no guarantee we’ll have a big ugly” this year.

ALBANY — It’s a tale of two counties when it comes to renewing legislation for red light cameras on Long Island.

Nassau County is on track to get its program reauthorized shortly and without fuss. Suffolk County is in limbo — in part because, in an election year for state legislators, no one has stepped forward in the State Senate to carry the legislation in Albany.

“I’m told they are having trouble finding a Senate sponsor,” Assemb. Fred Thiele (D-Sag Harbor), who is carrying the bill in the state Assembly, told Newsday.

Further, Suffolk hasn't even sent the state a “home rule” request to renew the red light cameras, a necessary step when a local jurisdiction wants to implement taxes, fees and other measures.

WHAT TO KNOW

Suffolk County's red light camera program is in limbo — in part because no state senator is willing to sponsor reauthorization legislation.

The clock is ticking: The State Legislature is set to adjourn by June 7. If no action is taken, authorization for red light cameras in Suffolk will expire Dec. 1.

Nassau County is on track to get its program reauthorized shortly and without fuss.

Meanwhile, the clock is ticking: The State Legislature is set to adjourn for the year no later than next Friday. If no action is taken, authorization for red light cameras in the counties will expire on Dec. 1.

Red light cameras aren’t without controversy. The automated cameras are set up at intersections, nabbing people who don’t stop on red and generating tickets drivers receive in the mail.

Nassau and Suffolk have had a program since 2009, with renewals occurring every five years.

County officials said the cameras deter speeding and reduce crashes. Ticketed drivers have complained about the steep costs — $150 in Nassau, compared with $50 in Suffolk — among other issues.

Nassau expects to receive $48 million in red light camera revenue this year from its 100 monitored intersections. Suffolk has been receiving about $9 million annually from about the same number of intersections, according to a 2022 report.

Earlier this month, the Nassau County Legislature took a legally necessary step of approving a “home rule” message to formally ask for state legislation to renew red light cameras for another five years.

With Republicans controlling Nassau, it’s unofficial custom to have GOP state lawmakers agree to carry the bill in Albany — State Sen. Jack Martins (R-Mineola) and Assemb. Edward Ra (R-Franklin Square) in this case.

Nassau’s legislation is moving through Albany without a blip. The State Senate approved it Thursday, 53-4, and the Assembly plans to follow suit next week.

There wasn’t even any discussion in the Senate when the vote occurred, other than Martins touting traffic safety.

“It has been proven these cameras save lives. They work,” Martins said, adding some constituents would like more cameras installed.

Then, there’s Suffolk.

Democrat Thiele acknowledged some colleagues feel pressure when a local tax or fee renewal needs a legislator to carry it in Albany. He said he agreed to sponsor the Suffolk renewal because he’s the dean of the Suffolk delegation and it’s a straightforward renewal of a law that’s been in place for years.

He’s also not running for reelection.

Thiele formally submitted a bill, but it’s just sitting in the Transportation Committee for now, in part he said because Suffolk hasn’t approved a “home rule” message to renew the cameras.

“I have a bill but I can’t do anything till I get a home rule and I don’t think they want to do a home rule until they get a Senate sponsor,” Thiele said.

Asked about the issue, a spokesman for Suffolk County Executive Edward P. Romaine referred it to a county legislative official, who didn’t respond immediately.

Not everyone would be unhappy if Suffolk’s red light camera authorization expires.

County Legis. Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga), a frequent critic of taxes, fees and spending, said he’d oppose a home rule message or renewal legislation in Albany. “It’s nothing but a money grab,” Trotta said Thursday.

There’s a chance a Suffolk red light camera measure could get tucked into a “big ugly” bill — a wide-ranging piece of legislation that often combines multiple unrelated issues so lawmakers can make compromises to get things through while deflecting heat on any one proposal — on the final day of the state legislative session.

But that’s not typically how local tax or fee renewals — county sales tax, or the 911 surcharge, for example — get approved in Albany. Usually, those are done as standalone bills.

Said a Senate source: “There’s no guarantee we’ll have a big ugly” this year.

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