The Rockland Voice, Posted March 14, 2016, by:Jeff Gillies
Chairman of Rockland County Legislature, Alden Wolfe On Tuesday, March 15 at 7:00 p.m. a bipartisan majority of Democrat and Republican members of the
On Tuesday, March 15 at 7:00 p.m. a bipartisan majority of Democrat and Republican members of the Rockland County Legislature will attempt to pass a memorializing resolution supporting a veto-empowered monitor in the East Ramapo School District. A failure to pass this resolution will likely be viewed as an easy excuse for its opponents in Albany to kill the actual resolution already facing an uphill battle in Albany.
A nearly identical memorializing resolution passed the Rockland County Legislature in a 14-3 vote last year, but there is no guarantee the resolution will even make to the legislature for a vote at Tuesday night’s meeting. As far as one can tell, the support for the resolution hasn’t changed- at least publicly- but there is still a chance that a motion to bring the resolution to a vote may indeed fail by not meeting the minimum requirement of 12 votes needed to waive legislative procedural rules in order to allow an actual vote on the resolution itself.
In simple terms, the resolution failed to pass out of the MultiServices committee last week. Legislation is required to pass in its appropriate subcommittee before being put forward to the full legislature. Because the ERCSD monitor resolution failed in committee, the legislature must now first vote to waive its rules and allow it to be voted upon as “New Business.” A super majority of 12 votes from the 17 total is needed to waive the rules. If that is achieved, a second vote can take place on the resolution itself. A simple majority would be needed to pass this second phase, i.e. 9 votes in favor.
It is known for certain that three legislators are vehemently against a monitor with veto power in East Ramapo. Those three are the power trio base of the Ramapo Democratic faction: Legislators Wieder, Schoenberger and Soskin. On their own, they cannot block the resolution. They need three other legislators to either flip to their side directly, OR to simply be absent. Nearly every legislator went on record in support of the resolution at the last subcommittee meeting even though only the 5 present members of that committee were permitted to vote. Given that fact, the more likely scenario whereby this resolution could fail is through legislators simply not showing up, either as a result of coercion by or cooperation with the aforementioned trio, or by a legitimate and unavoidable absence. However, with the educational future of thousands of children at stake, there likely isn’t much wiggle room to constitute what the public would view as an excusable absence.
With the concerns of potential absences or last minute surprise changes of heart in mind, I issued a challenge to both the Republican and Democratic parties to provide a list of how each individual legislator stands. Specifically, I wanted to know who is committed to showing up and how each individual legislator intends to vote. Both the Rockland County Democratic Committee (through their Facebook page) and Rockland County Republican Chairman Lawrence Garvey accepted that challenge.
Both Rockland County Democratic Chairwoman, Kristen Stavisky, and Rockland County Republican Chairman, Lawrence Garvey, were extremely open and cooperative in supplying information for this article. In my view, both have done their part in setting the expectation to their respective legislators that they must show up and vote in support of this resolution. If this measure should happen to fail tomorrow, it won’t be because either party leader failed to stress the importance of standing up for the children of East Ramapo, even if the resolution itself is little more than symbolic. Stavisky has a rogue faction on her hands, but in this particular case she has done what is within her control to contain it.
Since it is well-documented that Legislators Soskin, Wieder and Schoenberger are opposed to the resolution, the focus of my challenge to Stavisky and Garvey was on the other legislators that need to be present and to vote to move the resolution forward with the required 12 vote super majority. Here is the list of legislators verified by their respective Party leader as being committed to attending the meeting and supporting the resolution:
Republicans; Lon Hofstein, Christopher Carey, Laurie Santulli, Vince Tyer, Patrick Moroney, Douglas Jobson, Charles Falciglia
Democrats: Jay Hood, Nancy Low-Hogan, Michael Grant, Harriet Cornell, Toney Earl, Aney Paul
One legislator did not reply or commit, namely Chairman Alden Wolfe
The good news is that if these legislators are true to their word, the memorializing resolution will pass with overwhelming bipartisan support. The bad news is that if Chairman Wolfe sides with the Ramapo Democratic trio, it will further the increasingly widely held belief that Wolfe has completely defected over to that faction and no longer cares if his support of the Ramapo block vote is out in the open. Wolfe may not have the power to stop the resolution tomorrow, but he is the one responsible for giving it the best possible chance of failure. Wolfe would have some serious questions to answer from his party and his constituents if he does vote against the resolution.
If you are wondering how and why a resolution with overwhelming bipartisan support failed in committee, that question also might best be addressed to Chairman Wolfe, as it was his inexplicably stupid or possibly even intentionally devious decision to place the rogue Ramapo Democratic faction in control of the two most powerful subcommittees of the legislature. In doing so, Chairman Alden Wolfe has enabled a nightmare scenario where the Ramapo faction can block just about anything of importance to the county in the MultiServices and Budget & Finance committees. This is exactly what occurred last week when this resolution failed to reach the requisite 4 votes needed to advance forward to the full legislature. The seven member committee members voted as follows:
Yea: Republican Tyer, Democrats Earl and Paul
Nay: Democrats Soskin and Wieder
Absent: Republican Falciglia and Democrat Schoenberger
Through his absence, Legislator Falciglia enabled the Ramapo faction to block a resolution that is supported by the vast majority of the Legislature. While Falciglia had declined to express his opinion on the matter prior to that committee meeting, he has since expressed his support for the measure. Unfortunately, as a result of his absence and the makeup of the committee Chairman Wolfe created, the bar to pass the resolution for a monitor with veto power is now set much higher. So far, Falciglia has been a surprising disappointment to the Reform Party voters that carried him into office. Hopefully, he starts to turn this around with an affirmative vote on Tuesday night.
If we can take the legislators at their word, the measure will pass easily through both phases, but will all our legislators back up their words by showing up and actually voting for the resolution as promised? It will be very interesting to see if any are suddenly called in for an emergency shift at work or happen to suddenly develop a ‘case of the flu’.
We will have to wait until Tuesday evening to find out for sure, but even if the symbolic expression of bipartisan support passes, there is still no indication that action will be taken where it really matters – in Albany, where it still faces disgraceful and regrettable opposition from two key Republicans; namely Senator John Flanagan and Senate Education Chairman Carl Marcelllino who have made their intransigent positions clearly known.
Senator Carl Marcellino, R-Nassau County, is the Chairman of the Senate Education Committee. He said he opposes a monitor for East Ramapo, despite two reports that have called for one to be put in place and pressure from local lawmakers in Rockland County to pass legislation to install a monitor. The rebuke from Marcellino is the latest criticism from Republicans of the monitor proposal sought by Democrats in the state Legislature. An effort to have a monitor with veto power over school board decisions failed in the Senate last year, and this Republican has shown no signs of changing his stance this year.
Senate Majority Leader Republican John Flanagan, has warned against a monitor, saying that the state shouldn’t usurp the power of an elected school board. The East Ramapo school board has opposed a state monitor with veto power. “Really what they want to do is overtake that school district. And we’re not doing that,” Flanagan, R-Suffolk County, told a Jewish group.
In the meantime, this war must be fought one battle at a time. Right now, the battle at hand is in the Rockland County Legislature where a bipartisan team of legislators seems poised to do its part in support of the children of East Ramapo. If and when that has been accomplished, it is my hope that a bipartisan, unified message is sent to Albany that the people and elected officials of Rockland County will fight together, tirelessly and relentlessly, against anyone standing in the way of the educational rights of our children.