Council hears 2024 Legislative Agenda

Published 10:20 am Wednesday, October 11, 2023

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Suffolk City Council observed a public hearing over their 2024 Legislative Agenda. During their Wednesday, Oct. 4 council meeting held at City Hall Chambers, legislative liaisons representing the City of Suffolk presented their agenda detailing important items for the city before the meeting. City Manager Albert S. Moor II provided a summary of the ordinance before the public hearing.

“The draft agenda is a comprehensive package of priorities that contains a wide range of items that are important to the city,” Moor said. “The expectation is not that we would achieve success on every individual priority listed. This approach, however, will give staff and lobbyists a strong foundation for which to advocate on behalf of the city at the regional, state and federal level … It’s also important to recognize that a number of factors are in play that will impact representation of the city at the state level …”

“While I am confident in the city’s Legislative Liaisons Access Point in public affairs’ work, I want to keep that in mind as we pursue the priorities in our agenda.”

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This follows a staff report on the draft 2024 agenda provided by Suffolk Legislative Liaisons Mindy Carlin, Emily Reynolds and Cassidy Taylor from Access Point Public Affairs, LLC. The report detailed the various legislative priorities: Public Safety, Transportation, Finance/Regulations, Community Development/Planning, Human Services, Education and Workforce Development, Environmental/Utilities and Organization and Regional Endorsements. Such recommended priorities include reducing the role of law enforcement in mental health crises, increasing protection of existing local tax authority, and providing state funding to support school construction and modernization.

During the meeting, Carlin and Reynolds provided an additional overview before the public hearing. Carlin noted the upcoming changes Suffolk and beyond will likely see following election season.

“Suffolk’s not alone in embracing significant change following the November elections. In fact, retirements in primary losses will be leading to a significant loss of experience in institutional knowledge statewide that will impact our efforts on behalf of the city,” Carlin said. “33 house members and 15 senate members will not be returning to the general assembly in January. That is unprecedented and will be impactful. We also have a lot of open seats where there is no incumbent running for office. 33 in the house of 100 seats and 11 open seats in the Senate. So we’re going to have to get familiar with a lot of new faces who’ve never served at the state level.”

Carlin wanted the council to understand how these changes will impact their work representing the city.

“While some work can and will be done to advance the city’s priorities and to prepare for the legislative session prior to the elections, it’s going to be difficult to secure patrons, have legislations drafted, we’re going to be behind the 8 ball. But we won’t be alone. Everyone will be in the same situation,” she said.

On the agenda’s priority of increased support for mental health and wellness services for public safety officials, Resident Thomas Rein expressed his support on behalf of the Suffolk Humane Society.

“In recognition of the fact that public safety officials are operating in increasing complex and challenging environments, the city supports efforts to improve the delivery of and access to mental health and wellness services to public safety officials,” Rein said. “Recently, the board of the Suffolk Humane Society discussed ways in which they could expand the value of the organization to residents of Suffolk in 2024. Many potential initiatives were discussed, but the one that was most embraced was to seek opportunities within the city to expand the use of therapy animals, particularly with first responders and other high stress public safety teams.”

There was no opposition to the agenda. Following Council Members Roger Fawcett of the Sleepy Hole borough and LeOtis Williams’ support of the ordinance, Council Member John Rector of the Suffolk borough asked if any items would have to “go back to square one” following changes after November. Carlin responded that proposing a broad agenda will provide the flexibility to adapt to any upcoming changes while identifying members “effective in carrying the banner” for various priorities.

“We have a number of new priorities that have heavy price tags associated with them. For example, the juvenile detention center is new. The workforce innovation center is new. I think we will definitely feel the change in the members in our delegation,” Carlin said. “I think we are optimistic in our relationships with legislators outside of the Suffolk area who could be strong leaders in carrying forward the city’s agenda items where they align with those legislative interests.”

Mayor Michael D. Duman thanked Carlin and Reynolds for their representation while noting the difficulties of developing a strategy ahead and not predicting the upcoming legislative changes.

“I’m very impressed with our ‘ask list,’ if you will. It’s all relevant, it’s all impactful, it’ll all have an immediate effect on our citizens, especially when it comes to public safety, and a lot of it directly or indirectly is fiscally related as well. So I think we’re positioned very well to have some success with what we’re proposing,” Duman said.

The ordinance was approved with a unanimous vote of 8 to 0.


Editor’s note: Updated second passage at 3:43 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 11 to reflect correct spelling.