A (non) search for the abolition of taxpayer-funded political shipments

Mammogram of?

Check.

Blood drive?

Check.

Car child seat security check?

Check.

All three topics would pass muster under a proposal to be voted on Monday by the Nassau County legislature that would ban established firing most mass shipments within 45 days of an election.

Mailings would not cut into it unless they are about a public event or a meeting.

OK, but what about bulk shipments that offer workshops on how to provide property valuations? After all, Republicans are making Democratic County Leader Laura Curran’s reassessment across the country a central issue in her re-election campaign.

One almost stumped Richard Nicolello, Nassau’s chairman and sponsor of the shipping bill.

“I think if it was planned before, it would be fine,” Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) said.

But he acknowledged that he was not sure.

It is likely that the issue and more will be expressed during the legislator’s planned discussion of the proposal.

Just as it is likely that Nicolello, whose Republican assembly controls the legislature, has the votes he needs to pass the measure.

From there, it would go to Curran, who, like all 19 county lawmakers, is up for re-election in November.

Would she sign the shipping ban?

An e-mail statement from her spokesman, Michael Fricchione, may – or may not – give a clue.

“In the majority’s hasty attempt to generate headlines at the last minute before the election, they have put forward a poorly designed bill that puts handcuffs in the county from communicating with residents in emergencies,” Fricchione said.

“Just as the county administrator has used all available tools to guide our county during the pandemic and economic recovery efforts, she will continue to communicate important information to residents by all available means,” he said.

The saga of political shipments in Nassau stretches waaaay back.

But let’s start in 2013.

That was when taxpayers’ paid political shipments began to skyrocket after Kathleen Rice, then Nassau’s Democratic district attorney, said her law office could not prove criminal misuse of public resources.

In 2015, after Rice was elected to Congress, her successor, Democrat Madeline Singas, tried to tackle the issue by recommending a different approach.

Singas suggested that the county legislature could solve the problem.

Her recommendations?

A ban on all taxpayer-funded mass communications within 90 days of an election; clear rules prohibiting political and party political messages about shipments paid for by mass taxpayers; and a requirement that such shipments bear “conspicuous notice” that they have been “printed and distributed at the taxpayer’s expense.”

In addition, Singas recommended that bulk shipments of more than 100 “substantially identical pieces” be approved in advance by either a two-party legislative committee or the county ethics board.

And then came the most significant change of all – that legislators set civil and criminal sanctions for violations.

Unexpectedly, nothing significant came of Singas’ efforts.

In 2017, Singas tried again, this time addressing the Nassau County Electoral Commission directly to deal with political shipments paid for with taxpayer dollars.

“Without clear governing guidelines, rules, and protocols, Nassau County government officials continue to waste millions of tax dollars on self-promotional broadcasts to improve their choices,” Singas said in a letter to the board.

“It is undoubtedly unethical and wrong …”, she argued.

Singas also hit a wall there.

Some things changed, however, when Nicolello – one of the last two members of the legislature’s inauguration class – became the majority leader in 2018.

“I was looking for things that could be done better, and I thought that was something that was needed,” he told Newsday Friday.

And then he changed the legislature’s rules to exclude mass shipments within 45 days of the election.

His bill would codify these rules as county court.

And the measure would extend the ban to include county officials and other officials elected to the entire country.

Curran, as a legislator, railed against tax-funded political shipments.

And earlier this year, she jumped aboard a trash can to write off $ 112,842.50 for what she said were taxpayer-funded shipments from GOP-powered Oyster Bay Town to residents who rejected her administration’s work of appraisal.

Curran is not the only Democrat calling for restricting political shipments; other legislators have from time to time done the same.

And then, when Nicolello’s proposal goes up for a legislative vote, a few Democrats can come on board.

But what about consequences?

Does the proposal itself indicate any penalty for infringements?

Nix.

.

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