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No vote on longer terms for legislators during meeting held remotely via Zoom

There were no speakers at a public hearing Tuesday on the question of whether to increase the terms of Suffolk County legislators from the current two years to four years. 

The meeting was the Legislature’s first to be conducted via the Zoom computer application, with a live audio and video stream of each legislator participating remotely. 

The public was able to connect to the meeting and interact with legislators remotely, although not many did, and many hearings and resolutions on the agenda were not voted on and were tabled for future meetings. 

The proposal to double the length of legislators’ terms was introduced by Legislator Samuel Gonzalez, a Democrat whose district covers Brentwood and Central Islip. 

The proposal requires an amendment to the county charter, which reads: “This Legislature hereby finds and determines that Suffolk County’s elected officials, with the exceptions of County Legislators, all serve a four year term of office. County Legislators are elected to only a two year term of office.” 

The amendment “finds and determines that a two-year Legislative term impedes a legislator’s ability to adequately represent his or her constituents, especially when campaigning for re-election requires several months out of his or her second year in office.” 

If approved, it would apply to all legislators beginning with their next term on Jan. 1, 2022. 

The Legislature conducted the hearing online because it is prohibited from holding public meetings by an executive order from Gov. Andrew Cuomo. 

Legislator Tom Cilmi, a Republican whose district is mostly in Islip Town, said he opposed closing any of the hearings Tuesday so that more input can be gathered from the public. 

Mr. Cilmi said he realized the county has done all it can to make the hearings accessible online, but added, “I think we need to do public hearings in public, not online.”

Democratic Legislator Jason Richberg, whose district is largely in Babylon Town, said, “In general, I’m not in favor of closing any public hearings at this meeting.”

The governor’s executive order prohibits public hearings in person until at least June 1, according to Sarah Simpson, legal counsel to the Legislature. She said that, until then, “this is the only format that is currently authorized under that executive order.”