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Political Action: Carrozza’s absentee record unacceptable for elected official

In terms of the 26th State Assembly District seat in northeast Queens, there seems to be increased interest in who the candidates will be in that race next year. It is not known at this time whether incumbent Assemblywoman Ann-Margaret Carrozza (D-Bayside) will be a candidate for re-election.

There are recent conflicting reports regarding this matter. The final answer to that may depend on the results of the state attorney general’s investigation of charges that Carrozza has been living outside the district, which violations state law.

As to the other controversy involving Carrozza’s high absentee rate from legislative sessions and committee meetings in Albany, it is ironic the man she defeated to obtain her seat, Doug Prescott in 1996, had an almost perfect attendance record at legislative sessions and committee meetings during his 12 years in office.

Republican Prescott himself in 1980 also defeated an incumbent, former Assemblyman Vincent Nicolosi, in an upset election. One of the issues raised during that campaign was that Nicolosi had a 25 percent absentee record from previous Assembly sessions. It seemed to have been an important issue in Prescott’s victory in the fall of that year, but when we compare that to Carrozza’s 64 percent absentee rate from the 2009 legislative session, there is a significant difference.

In the private sector, employees who missed almost two-thirds of their work schedule during any given year probably would not keep their jobs very long.

In most large corporations, when an employee has an acceptable reason for a high absentee rate, such as a long-term illness, there are usually continual decreases in their pay depending upon how long they are out. It would seem a member of the Assembly or state Senate who misses more than half of the legislative meetings should receive a reduction in salary. The state Legislature is usually in session from January through June and is called back into session possibly for a few days in the fall. That in itself is a part-time job before we include the absentee rate.

There is another aspect to this situation. Why did Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) make Carrozza the deputy majority whip with an additional $16,500 for each legislative session when he knew of her high past absentee record? In 2004, her Republican opponent, Peter Boudouvas, brought up the fact that from 1997-2004, Carrozza had missed hundreds of committee meetings. He mentioned that during the 2003-04 legislative session, Carrozza had missed over 52 percent of committee meetings. At that time, the legislative session absence record was not available.

For nearly the last eight years, City Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) has represented the 19th Council District, much of which overlaps Carrozza’s district. Within those eight years, Avella has established a 100 percent attendance record in the Council. Aside from Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan), no other Council member has a perfect attendance record over such an extended timeframe. State Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) has also maintained an excellent attendance record in the Senate.

Registered voters do not always agree with how their elected officials vote on various critical issues, but on one thing they can all agree. They expect their representatives to show up for work. Suppose a majority of our elected state Legislature was absent a majority of the time. It would have a negative impact on our state government being able to function in any meaningful capacity.

Returning to next year’s 2010 election, if Carrozza does not run, an open seat will be created. We have not had an open seat in the 26th Assembly District since 1972, when Republican John Gallagher gave up the seat to run for Congress. The 1972 election was won by Democrat Nicolosi, who in turn lost to Prescott eight years later. Next year’s 26th Assembly District race could produce primaries in both major political parties as prospective candidates compete to become the official party-designated candidate in the 2010 fall general election.

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