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Back to basics

Andrew Garbarino on June 3, 2020.

Andrew Garbarino on June 3, 2020. Credit: James Escher

Daily Point

Class is in session

Andrew Garbarino flew down to D.C. Thursday for the beginning of new member orientation for the 117th Congress.

"We were joking around [that] it’s like the first day of school," he told The Point on Friday.

The orientation program includes sessions on security and staffing; Friday morning included four chiefs of staff talking about hiring and office culture. Soon would come the rules with the Sergeant at Arms.

"It’s like how to be a congressman," said Garbarino, who is leading in the CD2 race.

There are some strangenesses to this year’s welcoming session for the new legislators. There were discussions about COVID-19 safety and people are wearing masks and staying distant in the Capitol auditorium, according to the Bayport Republican. And the exact list of who will be incoming in January isn’t exactly settled.

The Committee on House Administration’s invite list included Garbarino and CD3 Republican George Devolder Santos, even though Nassau and Suffolk counties are still counting votes.

A representative for the committee told The Point that the way it traditionally works, if an election is uncalled, both candidates are invited until the election is resolved.

However, neither Nancy Goroff nor Jackie Gordon, the CD1 and CD2 Democratic candidates, were included on the invite list that the committee representative shared with The Point. Neither candidate's campaign responded when asked about orientation.

Still, there’s a New York cohort at orientation already, including Nicole Malliotakis, who is set to represent Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn and is Garbarino’s GOP colleague in the State Assembly. Garbarino said he met New York Democrats Ritchie Torres and Jamaal Bowman, as well as Mondaire Jones, the Democrat taking over for Rep. Nita Lowey.

Garbarino called Jones a "nice guy" and said they already talked about working together on the SALT issue, following in their predecessors’ bipartisan focus on this subject which affects Jones’ suburban Rockland and Westchester district and Garbarino’s Long Island stretch alike.

Garbarino said that Jones suggested, "Let’s get this done right away."

"I’m with you," Garbarino said.

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Talking Point

Suffolk GOP continues the ask

Suffolk Republicans appear to be utilizing a similar tactic to President Donald Trump: fundraise off election uncertainty.

"DEFEND THE LINE," said a Thursday afternoon fundraising email from party leader Jesse Garcia. "STOP THE STEAL!"

The email asks for help "to protect" Trump, CD1 incumbent Lee Zeldin, and CD2 and CD3 candidates Andrew Garbarino and George Santos, as well as other GOP candidates: "The people of Suffolk County need your help to fight the nonsense that has been going on during this election cycle!"

Nassau and Suffolk counties are days away from completed absentee ballot counts, so the line being staked out for defending is hardly fully set. Asked what results needed defending, Garcia pointed to tight races including SD5 and AD10, where Republicans Ed Smyth and Jamie Silvestri have the in-person voting lead over Democrats Sen. James Gaughran and Assemb. Steve Stern, respectively. Both races, like the rest of Long Island, feature thousands of unopened absentee ballots that could swing the result — and likely will in some races like CD3, where Rep. Tom Suozzi could benefit from plenty of absentees to make up his slim early gap.

Garcia, who also has a role with the county Board of Elections as a Hispanic outreach coordinator, said the defend the line slogan is one he’s used for years. Asked about where or how exactly someone might be trying to steal an election in New York, he said, "I’m not sure" but pointed to "saber rattling" from Democrats about trying to come from behind in close races with lots of paper ballots like SD5.

He said money is typically raised for recounts and that funds are necessary for lawyers and anything he could utilize to help support candidates in this post-Election Day period.

"This is nothing new," he said.

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Pencil Point

Staking his claim

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Final Point

With power, it’s all about timing

LIPA ratepayers hearing about the utility’s five proposed off-peak pricing plans each with different peak and off-peak hours and pricing options, could not be blamed for wondering why they have to sign up for any of them to get cheaper off-peak rates.

According to LIPA spokeswoman Jennifer Hayen, New York does not allow mandatory varying time-of-use rates for most customers. Those who want varying rates that can offer savings have to opt in. Right now, LIPA offers a "Power to Save" program in which participants pay 47 cents per kilowatt hour during peak (2 p.m. to 7 p.m. year round) and 15 cents per kwh off-peak.

Customers who don’t participate pay 21 cents per kwh all the time.

The five plans LIPA trustees are considering include three options for all household users, along with another for owners of electric vehicles and an additional plan for small businesses. Each sets up price inducements to push users away from peak hours, lowering LIPA’s peak demand, which is the utility’s goal.

Enrollment in new options could start as early as next year, so it’s fair to question the timing since so many people have no idea when or whether they or their kids will be home in 2021 as COVID-19 continues to impact so many people’s behaviors.

But Hayen says customers jumping into the variable pricing pool aren’t committed to any of these plans long-term. They can quickly switch between the plan options as often as they wish and can switch back to a flat rate at any time. The only restriction is that customers who pick an off-peak plan and then switch back to the standard cannot go back to an off-peak plan for a year.

And Hayen said the coronavirus pandemic itself may create opportunities for people to save as so many find themselves pulled away from traditional schedules.

The point, of course, is not to save ratepayers a few bucks but to reduce the peak load needed to power the Island. That peak load, generally reached on summer afternoons when air conditioners are laboring, especially in large office complexes, defines how much production capacity LIPA needs.

How many megawatts a utility must have available is set by the New York ISO. So LIPA can’t retire large, dirty and expensive generation like that coming from the Northport Power Plant until it can replace it from other sources, or as it has stated in its forecasts, prove the Island doesn’t need it.

—Lane Filler @lanefiller

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