Nassau Pols Butt Heads Amid Bipartisan Promise

Legislature 1

Republican and Democratic lawmakers in Nassau County repeatedly broke down into spates of political bickering at their meeting on Monday, three days after touting a bipartisan compromise on a tax refund bill.

Legislators on each side of the aisle in the GOP-controlled panel traded barbs over which party raised taxes and fees more during their time in power. An activist accused Legis. Michael Venditto (R-Massapequa) of campaigning for New York State Senate instead of attending a finance committee meeting. And other lawmakers drowned each other out while arguing over one another during various debates.

“It’s fair game,” Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) said of Venditto allegedly skipping a meeting while running for higher office. Abrahams, who’s running in the Democratic primary for Congress next week, said he’d expect to be called out if he did the same. Venditto did not respond at the meeting.

The back-and-forth came after Abrahams joined Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) and her Republican ally, Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, in announcing Friday their support for legislation designed to clear up multi-million-dollar property tax refund backlogs.

While a bill requesting the state legislation to enact the measure later passed unanimously, several measures that raise fees for visiting parks, filing documents and other county business passed along party lines following intense debate.

Republicans took issue with Legis. David Denenberg (D-Merrick), who is running in a Democratic primary in the hopes of facing Venditto in the race for vacant 8th state Senate seat, calling the fee hikes “back-door tax increases.”

One GOP legislator read off a list of fee hikes that he said Denenberg voted for when Democrats held the legislative majority and county executive seat. Denenberg countered that terming the fee hikes “back-door tax increases” was a tactic first used by Republicans, including the late Presiding Officer Peter Schmitt (R-Massapequa).

Gonsalves tried to keep both sides from arguing with each other before cooler heads eventually prevailed.