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Opinion

Planning for the future

Steve Israel of Oyster Bay

Steve Israel of Oyster Bay Credit: Alzheimer’s Foundation of America

Daily Point

Tracking hospital beds on Long Island

A Newsday analysis of New York State Health Department data shows that Long Island has about 7,250 hospital beds and 550 intensive care-specific beds.

That would be approximately 2.55 hospital beds per 1,000 people, slightly lower than the U.S. average of 2.8.

Visit our interactive map to see all of the hospital beds on Long Island.

—Kai Teoh @jkteoh  

Talking Point

A new kind of normal

It should have been a typical panel about the 2020 Democratic Party primary, but the Wednesday edition of former Rep. Steve Israel’s Cornell University breakfast conversations had coronavirus in the background. 

First of all, the event, part of the Cornell Institute of Politics and Global Affairs which Israel directs, was held by conference call. 

But the participants gamely kept with the political news: after additional primary wins for former Vice President Joe Biden Tuesday night, what was the path for Sen. Bernie Sanders?

Biden was the “likely nominee,” said former Virginia Rep. Tom Davis, onetime head of the National Republican Congressional Committee. 

Basil Smikle, former executive director of the New York State Democratic Party, put it a little more gently: The former veep has “an overwhelming but not insurmountable lead.”

Would the coalescing around Biden mean that Sanders would drop out? The Vermont senator is expected to fly back to Vermont with his wife, and his campaign manager said Wednesday that Sanders would be assessing his options. 

Smikle saw two possibilities. A continued one-on-one battle could sharpen Biden down the stretch. But he thought voters might want to focus on the general, and that this was the moment of maximum leverage for Sanders as a powerbroker.

Both panelists wondered about Sanders’ supporters making their way over to Biden if Biden wins. “Biden needs Sanders more than Sanders needs Biden at this point,” said Davis, who also noted that conventional wisdom about the race had been “thrown out the window three or four times” this year.

That uncertainty now includes, of course, COVID-19. The final tele-question was about the possibility of the coronavirus returning in the fall, in time for the general election. 

Regarding election practices, “that’s going to be handled state by state,” said Davis. 

Smikle noted that the virus may already be affecting voting, with dips in physical turnout in some areas on Tuesday, according to early numbers.

Then everybody in their separate locations hung up the phone. 

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Pencil Point

Under control

For more cartoons, visit www.newsday.com/cartoons

Final Point

Meanwhile, back in Albany...

The State Legislature headed back to Albany Wednesday to handle a couple of emergency measures related to the coronavirus pandemic — and, potentially, to pass a budget. It’s unclear how long lawmakers will be there, or how much they’ll get done. But advocates are watching from afar, concerned about their issues — especially those that might be crammed into whatever budget, skinny or otherwise, is passed.

Members of the State Senate are spending their time in a large hearing room, as far apart from one another as possible.

Sources tell The Point that bail and discovery reform, the environmental bond act and even the future of the state’s centers of excellence and centers of advanced technology might be part of the mix of issues that lawmakers try to resolve in the next few days. 

Another issue likely to be included is Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s proposal to fast-track land-based renewable energy projects by creating a new office to review and issue permits for wind and solar arrays. Cuomo has made it a priority and discussions are ongoing with the State Senate, though sources tell The Point that the Assembly is not similarly engaged. Friction revolves around ensuring local governments have input while not letting the approval process get bogged down.

Also under discussion: the effort to institute requirements regarding the paying of prevailing wage — the higher salaries often codified in collective-bargaining agreements — on projects that receive state or local funding. 

Sources said that if a prevailing wage law gets through, it’ll likely be similar to a tentative deal between labor leaders and developers reached in June — one that fell apart at the last minute — but possible changes to that framework are still being debated.

Long Island developers and business leaders, however, said amendments are needed to avoid a negative impact on the region’s construction efforts. In particular, they’re concerned about the broad definition of projects that would be included in the legislation and the establishment of a potentially powerful public subsidy board that could easily change standards and guidelines even after the legislation is passed.

“Hindering economic development when our nation’s, state’s, and region’s economy is at risk would have long-lasting impacts,” advocates wrote in a recent letter signed by the Long Island Builders Institute’s Mitch Pally, the Long Island Association’s Kevin Law and the Association for a Better Long Island’s Kyle Strober.

Beyond the big issues, individual senators are trying to advance their own top priorities, too, though they’re limiting their advocacy to just one or two significant bills. State Sen. Anna Kaplan, for instance, is pushing for gun legislation that would address so-called “unfinished receivers” that could be turned into automatic rifles, along with weapons that lack serial numbers, a source told The Point.  

“We’re working hard,” State Sen. Todd Kaminsky said. “We understand this is an unprecedented time but we still need to be an effective state government and do what we need to do for Long Island.”

—Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall

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