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Newsday’s 2016 endorsements for New York State Assembly

FILE - In this Jan. 2, 2015 file

FILE - In this Jan. 2, 2015 file photo, state and American flags are lowered to half-staff at the Empire State Plaza in Albany, N.Y., in honor of former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo. Cuomo, 82, died just hours after his son Andrew began his second term as New York's current governor and ordered flags lowered for his father. (AP Photo/Mike Groll, File) Photo Credit: AP

The complex challenges facing New York require state legislators willing to boldly take them on.

Voices from all parties and in both chambers will need to be heard. There is little doubt the Democrats will still control the Assembly after Election Day, but the Long Island delegation will still be predominantly Republican.

Speaker Carl Heastie, who assumed leadership early in the last term after Sheldon Silver was indicted on corruption charges, should encourage bipartisanship by allowing Republican bills to come to the floor for votes. That will be especially important if Democrats succeed in taking control of the State Senate, too. Good ideas are good ideas, no matter which party conceived them.

Heastie gets credit for visiting the districts of Long Island legislators and showing interest in our region’s most pressing issues, such as education and the environment. We hope he stays involved.

There are 22 Assembly districts in Nassau and Suffolk. Many of them are drawn to favor one party. Voters, however, should judge candidates by their stands on these issues:

Ethics. Passing a pension forfeiture bill for officials convicted of public corruption was a start. As a constitutional amendment, it needs to be approved again in the next session. But there’s much more to do. Limiting or banning outside income should be the price lawmakers pay for getting a raise in salary. Term limits on Assembly leadership are a good idea, as is closing a loophole that lets secretive limited liability companies make large campaign contributions. So is cracking down on the ability of super PACs to influence elections with their massive pots of dark money.

Environment. The region has a strong leader here in environmental conservation committee chairman Democrat Steven Englebright, and Republican Joseph Saladino has done good work on the Grumman and Navy plume. With water quality and sea level rise critical to Long Island’s future, our delegation must make sure this remains a strong bipartisan focus. Climate change deniers should be shown the door.

Tax cap. It’s working, and it should stay intact. Beware of legislators who want to help school districts and municipalities struggling with the cap and propose to tweak it, especially by creating exemptions for costs like salaries. The cap has reined in spending, and will continue to force more cuts and efficiencies. So the pressure to find escape hatches will increase. With Long Island’s still-sluggish economy, this is no time to loosen that control.

Ballot access and voting law reform. Political parties wanting to stop outsiders with fresh ideas tightly control the nuts and bolts of getting on the ballot. Those laws must be loosened. And we have to make voting simpler — by making it easier to register to vote and easier to switch parties, and by extending voting from one day in November to a few more. More participation means a stronger democracy. And this year we had three primaries, in April, June and September. One election is enough.

There are other important questions voters should be asking their legislative candidates.

How can we get better educational results for the enormous amount in taxes we pay? The answer cannot be simply to give school districts more money.

What are your plans for state spending given growing concerns that tax revenues and money from bank settlements will not continue to rise?

How can we make sure state investment dollars are spent wisely, especially in the wake of recent indictments in upstate revitalization efforts?

Do you support big infrastructure projects like the third track for the Main Line of the Long Island Rail Road and more sewers in Suffolk, projects that offer great benefits to all of us?

All elections are important. With the economy stagnant, education in flux and the environment in peril, smart and principled leadership is at a premium. Ask questions, and vote wisely.

— The editorial board


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