Unlike the New York Senate, control of the Assembly is not an issue this election season. Democrats will continue to hold power by a wide margin as they have for decades.
But if Republicans finally lose the edge they have held in the Senate, that would put a spotlight on Long Island’s Assembly delegation, both Democrats and Republicans.
In the past, Long Island members of the New York City-dominated Assembly could vote for bills its city-oriented leadership wanted knowing the GOP-run Senate would block measures counter to Long Island’s interests. In a Democratic Senate, which also would have a sizable city contingent, that would no longer be guaranteed. In that event, every vote would have to be weighed carefully.
More important, Long Island’s Assembly members would have to be more aggressive in promoting and protecting the region’s interests in that chamber. This would best be done by forming a suburban caucus with like-minded peers from Westchester, Rockland and Dutchess counties and farther upstate, like the suburbs of Buffalo. Suburban Republicans, including those on Long Island, can and should be part of this coalition, too. Suburban representatives have a strong numerical presence in the chamber; it’s time to flex the commensurate muscle.
Speaker Carl Heastie is from the Bronx, but he understands Long Island. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Stony Brook University and has visited the region often since taking over nearly four years ago. He understands the potential dynamic in the Senate means his party has to recognize regional interests, and while individual blocs will disagree they must be able to compromise. It would be helpful if he had a veteran member from Long Island in his hierarchy to help him navigate this minefield.
Voters should keep this in mind when they meet their candidates, and press them on the importance of this suburban coalition. Because it will have to help mold a lot of critical issues in the upcoming legislative session.
The Long Island delegation must continue to take the lead on environmental protections, including ramping up the fight against climate change.
It must protect the region’s share of school funding and work to contain the high cost of living many candidates have cited as the main reason friends and family members have moved off the Island. A priority must be keeping the tax cap in place. Economic development grants must continue to come our way.
The legalization of recreational marijuana and putting tolls on East River bridges to pay for mass transit, including the Long Island Rail Road, are knotty issues. They must get done but must be done right; Long Island’s lawmakers should educate themselves so they can be major players. The Island’s delegation should focus on ways to contain the opioid epidemic and make it easier for families to get help.
It’s a tall order. But a team of Long Islanders can get it done.
— The editorial board