Good afternoon and welcome to The Point! There is some action in Albany today. The State Senate passed a bill making the wood frog the official state amphibian. Warning: A kiss will not turn it into Tom Croci.
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Albany pettiness at play
Among the many, many stalled matters in Albany is one that foreshadows what the future might be like after November.
Stashed away in the state budget are pots of money for legislators to distribute to constituents — the spoils of the majority party, which gets to dole out money to favored groups. Call it member items or pork or a way to best help local groups by elected officials who know the needs of their communities. It’s a big deal in Albany.
Usually, the distribution is done by a simple resolution. Members who want to vote in favor of disbursing the cash just circle their names on a piece of paper and hand it to the clerk on the chamber floor.
But with a 31-31 State Senate split because of missing senator-you-know-who, GOP Majority Leader John Flanagan on Monday was unable to get approval for a $16 million Senate pot of pork for women and children’s health care and tick-borne diseases.
That’s because Democrats now demand some of it in return for their votes, instead of acquiescing to the winner-take-all approach. Flanagan, however, has balked at sharing, as some Democrats float a 70-30 split. GOP members believe they might as well wait to see whether Tom Croci makes an appearance before Wednesday to give them a winning margin, or whether Democrats will give up their demand in return for something else as part of a grand bargain in the waning hours of the session next week. Another possible outcome is that the pot stays full and the party in control in January gets it all.
So for now, the grantees wait. On the line are $125,000 for Stony Brook University and $25,000 for tick control on Shelter Island. Also listed on the resolution: support for community breast cancer centers, such as $50,000 for the Great Neck Breast Cancer Coalition, $20,000 for a similar group in Huntington, $100,000 for one in Manhasset and $125,000 for Adelphi University’s New York Statewide Breast Cancer Hotline & Support Program; and $75,000 to St. Charles Hospital for women’s substance-abuse services.
If Democrats force sharing, it’s unclear whether the GOP will reduce the amounts listed or find more cash stashed away in other mystery pots.
What the GOP Senate majority does could set a precedent, something Democrats are reminding Republicans in case they find themselves in the minority next year.
Another bill stuck in Albany involves a land lease that would allow Stony Brook Southampton Hospital to begin raising money to build a new facility on the university’s Southampton campus. But it’s mired not in dysfunction between Democrats and Republicans but by a force that long predates that: union opposition.
Under an affiliation agreement signed last year by Southampton Hospital and Stony Brook University, Southampton agreed to raise $250 million to build a badly needed facility on Stony Brook’s Southampton campus. Stony Brook would provide the lease for the building, and workers at Southampton Hospital currently represented by 1199 SEIU would continue to be members of that private union.
That apparently hasn’t sat well with three public unions led by the CSEA that represent workers at Stony Brook Hospital on the main campus. Assemb. Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor), who is carrying the legislation with Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), said the pushback stems from concerns about protecting public union jobs on both the Stony Brook and Southampton campuses.
“We’re making some progress,” Thiele told the Point. “We’re at the point where we’re exchanging language for the legislation. I’m sure they’re going to want some sort of assurances.”
But the clock is ticking. With the legislative session scheduled to end Wednesday, Thiele said the bill’s language must be finalized by end of business on Friday to properly age before a vote. Approval requires a two-thirds vote in both houses because it’s an alienation of state property for the new hospital.
The new facility is critical to the East End. The population on the South Fork has outgrown the old building, which is hard to reach in a residential section of Southampton Village. And a new building would allow for the use of new technology. But Southampton Hospital officials cannot begin to raise funds for construction until the lease is in hand.
“This is an important project with long-term and wide implications beyond building a hospital in Southampton,” Thiele said. “It has implications for the entire Stony Brook system and the community I represent. If this thing doesn’t get passed, it’ll be viewed as a betrayal.”
From the archive: What LI could’ve been
It’s not exactly breaking news that on Long Island we tend to think that we’re the center of the universe. And we’ve apparently felt that way for quite a while — at least 70 years.
On June 14, 1948, Newsday’s editorial board stated, “Flag Day brings talk of new states and new stars on the flag.”
So the board dispatched “Newsday’s Curious Cameragirl” — no, we’re not making this up — to survey Long Islanders about which “territory” should become a state and the 49th star on the flag. The choices were Hawaii, Alaska and, yes, Long Island.
Three of the five votes recorded on that page went to Alaska. The other two were for Long Island.
Carmine DeCrescenzo, a bookbinder from Garden City, made his case by saying Long Island would rank in the top 10 states in population and industry and cited the region’s state parks, beaches, boating, fishing, swimming and “wonderful roads.” Sounds familiar.
Massapequa housewife Helen Vrooman said bluntly that Long Island has everything except mountains. “That man who wrote the song, ‘You’re living when you’re living on Long Island’ really had the right idea,” she said. She, too, noted the area’s beauty and the important role Long Island’s industrial sector played in winning World War II. She also credited “far seeing civic leaders.” That doesn’t sound familiar.
But Vrooman also predicted that Long Island would become “one of the leading resort spots in the U.S.A.”
See, for Long Islanders, we’ve always been No. 1.