A Suffolk County legislative committee tied on a bill to...

A Suffolk County legislative committee tied on a bill to reduce the amount of plastic utensils and other disposable plastic food service items. Credit: AFP via Getty Images/Justin Tallis

Daily Point

Bid to cut down on microplastics calls for flexibility

A couple weeks ago, the Health Committee of the Suffolk County Legislature voted on a bill that would reduce the amount of plastic utensils and other disposable plastic food service items that restaurants and other businesses give to takeout customers.

Three committee members — Republican chair Leslie Kennedy and Democrats Rebecca Sanin and Ann Welker — voted in favor of the bill while Republicans Stephanie Bontempi and Chad Lennon opposed it. But the bill did not move forward. That’s because presiding officer Kevin McCaffrey, a Republican, attended the meeting and voted against the measure, and the 3-3 tie left it sitting in committee.

As presiding officer, McCaffrey is a “voting member ex officio of all Legislative committees,” as per the legislature’s rules, which means he can vote on legislation before it reaches the floor, provided he is not needed to make a quorum.

Democrat Steve Englebright, who sponsored the Skip the Stuff legislation, said McCaffrey “parachuted into the meeting.” But McCaffrey told The Point he attends and votes in committee meetings “all the time.” The problem, he said, is that the bill was not a good piece of legislation.

“I just thought it was a bridge too far for the result that we may have wanted to get out of it,” McCaffrey said. “I thought it would be a hardship on the customers, a hardship on businesses, and at the end of the day it would not have a significant impact on the environment.”

The bill, which does not ban plastic utensils, would give proprietors three options — ask customers whether they want the utensils, post a sign saying utensils will be provided if requested, or provide a self-service station so customers can take utensils as needed. The idea is to reduce plastic litter, which can break down in the environment into tiny microparticles that are being found in food and beverages — and in the blood and organs of human bodies, numerous studies have found.

McCaffrey said he does not oppose the goal, only the bill’s method of achieving it. “Let’s make it better,” he said of the bill.

Englebright said he is considering how to do that, including the possibility of removing the fine on proprietors who don’t comply with the bill’s provisions.

“I’m going to be reintroducing the bill in some form, I don’t know yet what that form will look like,” Englebright told the Point.

“This bill started with a fine, let’s fine people who don’t do this. I think that’s the wrong approach,” McCaffrey said. “If you want to start an educational campaign, I’m all in.”

Listen hard and you might hear an echo of the interparty fight in Suffolk over the water quality bill that would use a slight increase in the sales tax to fund sewer expansions and innovative septic systems. The measure was signed this week by County Executive Ed Romaine, putting a referendum on the November ballot for voters.

Will Skip the Stuff achieve similar success? That might depend on which fork in the road the legislation follows.

— Michael Dobie michael.dobie@newsday.com

Pencil Point

Democracy a hot mess?

Credit: The Scranton Times-Tribune, PA/John Cole

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

Final Point

Forget about dropping out — Bidens drop in for LI fundraisers

In the wake of President Joe Biden’s alarming lapses in his June 27 televised debate with Donald Trump, Biden made a fundraising visit to East Hampton last weekend where, as widely reported, he defied calls to forgo the Democratic nomination and said, according to White House press pool reports: “I promise you, we’re gonna win this election.”

Not everyone on the scene was supportive. Four protesters appeared on Further Lane, where one of the fundraisers was held, holding signs that said: “We Love You But It’s Time,” “Please Drop Out for Us,” “Thank you! Next …” and “Step down for democracy.” A photo of them appeared in the Southampton Press. And a couple of Trump flags were seen nearby.

The hosts, as one would expect, are well known in party fundraising circles — Barry and Lizanne Rosenstein, whose home is in East Hampton Village. Joe and Jill Biden also stopped in at the East Hampton residence of Avram and Jill Glazer.

Billionaire Barry Rosenstein is a major hedge fund manager who founded Jana Partners. His purchase of the Suffolk County property for $147 million in 2014 made headlines. Billionaire Avram Glazer is from a wealthy family that owns the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the National Football League and holds majority ownership of the English Premier League soccer club known as Manchester United.

Democratic members of the congressional delegation who attended included Reps. Tom Suozzi, Adriano Espaillat and Dan Goldman.

These kinds of catered Hamptons events for both major parties are especially typical in the summer of a presidential election. But given the crisis surrounding Biden’s candidacy, and talk about replacing him on the ticket, Biden’s sweep through the region drew an extra surge of attention.

— Dan Janison dan.janison@newsday.com

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