BY MICHAEL RICONDA
NEW CITY – The Rockland County Legislature convened on October 8 in what was anticipated to be another showdown with the County Executive over vetoed legislation, but dissipated without votes on two pieces of legislation.
The legislature was supposed to vote on two veto overrides of bills previously passed by the body. The first would have set aside funds for daily bus washes, increasing the frequency of cleanings from once a week to roughly once a day.
The pulling of this legislation is a victory for County Executive Ed Day, who has argued it would cost an additional $864,900 each year and would force property taxes up almost 4 percent. “Without a doubt, this measure is nothing more than a giveaway to a vendor at the expense of the taxpayer,” Day stated in an October 2 commentary in the Rockland County Times. “We cannot spend money we do not have.”
Several legislators expressed dismay at the county executive’s treatment of the issue. Legislator Pat Moroney, who sponsored the bus-washing bill, stated that as an opponent of tax increases he would have never brought it if he believed it would mean a four percent tax hike. “There were no local tax dollars involved in this legislation,” Moroney claimed.
Moroney had previously issued a report from his office which critiqued the county executive’s findings, arguing the washes were covered under money already available through existing transportation funds and that the county executive’s estimate is far more than his own analysis, which shows costs to be about $557,460 per year. The county executive argued those monies were already allocated on other transportation expenses.
Other legislators maintained a similarly critical stance toward Day. Legislative Chairman Michael Grant, who initially voted against the washes for being hastily drawn up and ambiguous when the bill was first introduced, agreed with Moroney and requested that Day publicly correct his comment on anticipated property tax increases.
The second override would have resolved discrepancies between county and local regulations regarding historic structures built before modern safety codes. Day expressed opposition to the legislation, arguing it presented a safety risk and was so over-broad that it could potentially apply to entire municipalities who might want exemptions to county health and safety laws.
Though the legislature opted not to vote on this legislation, indications were given that it might be considered at some future point.
Day wrote on his Facebook page, “Vetoes do not get pulled as a rule unless the support to override is not there. Clearly, a number of my former colleagues took the additional information we supplied to them as part of the veto messages; realized the merit of our argument; and expressed in their respective caucus an unwillingness to override my vetoes. For that we all owe them, whomever they may be, an acknowledgement.”
The legislature did succeed in passing some key resolutions Tuesday night. The Protect Our Pets act, a law sponsored by Leg. Barry Kantrowitz, is a response to a state law introduced in January which grants more powers over pet breeding and dealing to counties. It passed unanimously.
Based heavily on a similar local law in Suffolk County, the law establishes strict rules for safe care and sale of animals-particularly dogs and cats-prohibits dealers with a recent history of USDA violations and mandates free availability of inspection reports. The law specifically applies to multiple facets of animal care including weaning and sale of young animals, sterilization services, nutrition and hygeine and primary animal enclosures.
The law was lauded by numerous members of Hi-Tor Animal Shelter, who argued it would help curb irresponsible and cruel breeding practices in the county. Hi-Tor Vice President Michelle McCarthy stated the legislation could be improved to add more safeguards, but called it a “very good first step.”
Lucy Gates of both Hi-Tor and the League of Humane Voters agreed, arguing the shelter had seen the effects of cruel and unsanitary conditions at puppy mills firsthand when ill and injured animals entered the shelter.
“There may be no licensed breeders, but any visitor to hi-tor can see the results of these backyard breeders,” Gates said.
Other local breeders took exception to supporters’ criticisms, arguing home breeders do not invariably run unsafe puppy or kitty mills. According to Stephanie O’Keefe of the Rockland County Kennel Club, the law was so broad it would likely impact responsible home-based and hobby breeders.
Two other pieces of memorializing legislation were passed unanimously on Tuesday. One was a law expressing condolences and support for the family of Lisa Thomas, a Nanuet High School student who was found murdered in a wooded area near the Nanuet Mall 40 years ago. The murderer was never identified.
The second law requests state passage of reforms to New York State’s Civil Service law, particularly related to disclosure of criminal history. The request is an extension of county-level efforts to pass “Ban the Box” legislation which would prohibit county employers from asking about applicants’ criminal histories on initial job applications.