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Not Running The Food Bill By The Republicans Missed An Opportunity

It was little surprise last week to hear Republicans complain that they hadn’t been clued in on discussions of the state’s $40 million coronavirus funding bill that came with an expansion of gubernatorial power during an emergency.

What was surprising was to hear Rep. John Salka, R-Brookfield, offhandedly mention the depths of the lack of cooperation between Democrats and Republicans can reach as far as noncontroversial legislation like the bill the Assembly passed recently to amend the state Environmental Conservation Law to add a provision designed to increase food donations by large supermarkets.

The legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Thomas Abinanti, D-Greenburgh/Mt. Pleasant, is one of the least controversial bills the state Legislature will discuss during this legislative and received bipartisan support on the Assembly floor, with questions from Salka and Assemblyman Andrew Goodell, R-Jamestown, focused on particulars to ensure the law is constitutional oand not burdensome than focused on broad opposition to the bill.

Who wants to come out publicly against legislation to help food pantries? Yet, one of the first things Salka asked when questioning Abinanti on the Assembly floor was why Republicans on the Assembly’s Food, Farm and Nutrition Task Force hadn’t seen the bill.

“We would’ve loved to have known about this bill and help you work on this,” Salka said. “But maybe on the next one we’ll be able to do some work together.”

Two things are apparent. The first is that members of legislative task forces should be clued in on legislation that falls under their purview. It would seem, even if the task force on Food, Farm and Nutrition hadn’t met recently, that its members might have been interested in legislation touching on their prior work.

Second, and most importantly, is the fact that more bipartisan work needs to get done in Albany. Those who pay attention to Albany politics know Assemblyman Salka has an interest in food and farm matters. He would have been a logical co-sponsor for Abinanti’s legislation.

There are dozens of bills introduced each day in the state Assembly. Perhaps not running the food donation bill past Republicans was a simple oversight, but that doesn’t change the fact that working together on such an uncontroversial bill would have been a nice stroke of bipartisanship.

Instead, it was a missed opportunity to build a bridge.

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