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A lot at stake in Suffolk legislature

A file photo of the Suffolk County legislature

A file photo of the Suffolk County legislature holding a meeting at the Evans K. Griffing building in Riverhead. (Aug. 16, 2011) Photo Credit: James Carbone

So, what's changed since the members of the Suffolk County Legislature last faced election two years ago?

Plenty, and nothing.

On the progress side, the Foley nursing home is finally on track to be sold, county health clinics have been privatized, a big sewer expansion is on the drawing board, water quality problems are being attacked, and construction is underway on the Wyandanch revitalization and ready to begin at the Ronkonkoma Hub.

Then there's the budget.

It's not that legislators are not concerned about the county's finances, although some Democrats are a little too satisfied with their party's work to date. It's the lack of good ideas from both sides -- other than the evergreen "grow the economy" prescription -- to balance spending and revenue.

Developing serious proposals requires less posturing and more collaboration in a body in which Democrats hold a 12-6 majority. Control is not going to change on Nov. 3. But with three legislators running for their sixth and final terms, and one new face guaranteed as another lawmaker departs because of term limits, perhaps a combination of wise experience and fresh urgency can produce results.

Big issues loom -- making realistic sales tax estimates and finding alternatives to revenue that is not coming back, reducing the cost of policing, dealing with the heroin epidemic, building affordable rental housing. The legislature can play a critical role in addressing them, if it can summon the creativity and focus needed for the task.