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Whatever Suffolk County’s share of the $2.5 billion in the new state budget for water quality turns out to be, it won’t be enough to help fund its septic replacement program in the long term. Suffolk still needs a stable and recurring source of revenue for grants to help homeowners replace failing septic systems and cesspools with nitrogen-reducing technology.
That means Suffolk still needs to put a referendum before voters to create such a funding stream, such as a fee on water usage. And putting a referendum on the ballot requires State Legislature approval.
Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan told environmentalists that he wants the Suffolk legislature to ask him to allow such a measure to be put on November’s ballot. So the environmentalists wrote letters to all 18 Suffolk lawmakers a couple weeks ago asking them to sign on.
So far, only term-limited Republican Tom Barraga has agreed. No Democrats, who have a 12-6 majority, have signed on yet.
“It’s incomprehensible,” Dick Amper, executive director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society, told The Point on Thursday. “We ask government to do a lot of difficult things. This isn’t difficult.”
Amper and his colleagues — Adrienne Esposito of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Kevin McDonald of The Nature Conservancy and Robert DeLuca of Group for the East End — have split up Suffolk’s lawmakers for lobbying.
With the scheduled June 21 end of the state legislative session looming, expect the pressure to build.
What a difference 8 years makes
President Donald Trump is expected to announce his decision Thursday afternoon on the future of the U.S. role in the 2015 Paris climate change accord. Back in 2009, Trump and several of his family members were part of a group of business leaders who sponsored an ad in The New York Times urging international action ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.
The ad called for the United States to lead in “modeling the change necessary to protect humanity and our planet.”
Talk about a #ThrowbackThursday.
Counties figuring out raise-the-age
Statewide efforts have begun to determine how to implement the new raise-the-age law passed last month.
Suffolk County’s criminal justice community, for instance, estimates that the biggest effects of the law, which diverts nonviolent 16- and 17-year-olds from adult criminal courts, will be felt in four areas: more burden on Family Court, a greater number of cases handled by probation officers, the need for magistrates to be on call on weekends when the “youth part” of Criminal Court is closed, and a separate facility to jail juveniles before sentencing and possibly after conviction.
That last item could be expensive. The law demands “a specialized secure juvenile detention facility for older youth.” That could be a portion of the Suffolk County jail in Yaphank, or it could require new construction.
The law promises that the state will cover the local share of the program. And a spokesman for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said the state has budgeted $110 million for construction and $19 million for building or expanding detention facilities.
One bit of good fortune is that the law doesn’t take effect until October 2018, said Suffolk Administrative Judge C. Randall Hinrichs. He convened a May 22 meeting among local criminal justice officials to begin planning for the changes. “It was a preliminary meeting to try to get out in front of it,” he told The Point. “I think it’s going to be a smooth transition in Suffolk.”
Before April, New York and North Carolina were the only states that didn’t set the age of criminal responsibility at 18. Now, 16- and 17-year-olds charged with misdemeanors will be sent to Family Court, which has an array of social services.
The new state law paints these guidelines with a broad brush, and it will be up to counties for the most part to figure out how to manage them.
Another Met on the DL
Beloved mascot Mr. Met was exiting the ballpark after the Mets 7-1 loss to the Brewers Wednesday night when he turned back and flipped the bird at a group of fans.
The three-second video was captured by Twitter user Tony T and blasted around the world — or wherever Mets fans live in agony. The Mets told the AP that the employee playing the mascot would no longer be in costume.
But naturally, a backlash emerged in the mascot’s defense after Twitter users probed Tony T’s social media presence and found scattered “Make America Great Again” content and anti-political correctness tweets. (Tony T did not respond to tweets for comment.)
Maybe Mr. Met, then, was both fed up with the Mets and our political discourse. If so, who could blame him?