Republican Thomas Croci learned a few things in his first term in the State Senate, like how difficult it is to get ethics reform passed in Albany.
Croci, 44, of Sayville, pushed hard for pension forfeiture for officials convicted of corruption. Legislation to do that has passed the first of three hurdles, but it does not cover as many officials as he would have liked.
Croci knows more needs to be done, and though he prefers a citizen legislature, he would support a kind of “grand bargain” that includes a full-time legislature with a salary increase, a ban on outside income, term limits and a state spending cap. Except for the cap, it’s a good package and we hope he fiercely advocates for it — especially the outside-income ban, which his party generally opposes.
Croci scored legislative triumphs as a member of a task force that helped produce a package of solid legislation to deal with the heroin and opioid crisis, and as a partner with Independent Democratic Conference leader Jeff Klein to address the proliferation of zombie homes. Their bill, now law, holds banks accountable for maintaining abandoned properties and expedites the foreclosure process so vacant parcels get back on the market more quickly.
Croci also rightly supports increased funding for sewer infrastructure, both for environmental reasons and for economic development, but he’s wrong to flatly oppose a Suffolk County referendum to institute a water-usage fee to help homeowners upgrade failing septic systems.
His opponent, Democrat John DeVito, 25, a law school student from Mastic Beach, shares several of Croci’s concerns including ethics. DeVito’s expansive reforms also would include reducing contribution limits and closing the LLC loophole that allows interest groups to avoid contribution limits, both good ideas. But he would exempt labor unions from caps on PAC donations, an unwise proposal. He agrees that zombie homes are a big problem in the district, and wants to create a low-cost mortgage program, like long-standing ones for first-time home buyers, for those purchasing zombie homes. It’s an intriguing idea.
DeVito, who is on sabbatical from George Washington University and making his first run for public office, says young people need a place at the table in the discussion of Long Island’s future. He’s right, and he has a bright future in public service, but not in this race against a capable legislator.
Croci says he has learned in his first term as a legislator that the state’s diversity means that the real divide in the Senate is not between Democrats and Republicans, but between the suburbs and New York City. It’s an important distinction, and one that shows Croci’s potential to be a leader for Long Island in a body likely to remain split between those two warring parties.
Newsday endorses Croci.