Republican legislators said on Thursday that they will not immediately schedule an override vote for a bill that would have allowed police officers to sue people for civil damages in cases of harassment, menacing, assault or injury.
The bill, which was initially approved 12-6 by the Nassau County Legislature in August, was subsequently vetoed by Nassau County Executive Laura Curran. Majority officials said until Legislators Josh Lafazan, who proposed the legislation, and Delia DeRiggi-Whitton (D-Glen Cove) supported an override vote, they would not schedule one.
“Because of the 13 vote threshold needed to override a veto by the County Executive, the Majority will not schedule an override vote of the bill prohibiting discrimination against first responders until Legislators Lafazan and DeRiggi-Whitton state that they will support an override,” a statement from the Republicans said. “The Republican Majority remains committed to protecting our law enforcement from harassment, menacing or attack because of their service to the public.”
Efforts to reach Lafazan, an independent from Syosset who caucuses with Democrats, and DeRiggi-Whitton for comment were unavailing.
The Legislature has 30 days to schedule an override after the veto was made on Sept. 27. An override would need 13 votes in the Legislature, which the Republicans control with an 11-8 majority.
Under the legislation, if a first responder is in uniform or is “clearly identified” as a first responder, “there is an irrebuttable presumption” that the harassment, menacing, assault or injury is motivated by his or her status as a first responder.
First responders would be able to sue protesters or other civilians for up to $25,000 for such actions, or $50,000 during a riot. Police officers and other first responders are already protected in the Nassau County Human Rights Law against housing, employment and public accommodations discrimination.
“The police are essential to protect citizens’ freedom to speak, or refrain from speaking, from individuals who would use threats and violence to silence those with whom they disagree or to enforce conformity of thought,” the bill states.
Curran, in a veto letter, expressed concerns “that the law would intimidate free citizens from engaging in peaceful demonstrations without fear of retaliation.” She also said there was “no consensus from elected officials” that the legislation was necessary at this time.
Curran, a Democrat, also referred to the opinion of the office of state Attorney General Letitia James, whom the county executive asked for advice on the bill. Curran said James’ office questioned the bill’s constitutionality.
In September, Nassau County was deemed the safest county in America, according to U.S. News & World Report, for the second consecutive year.
The report, which factors in per capita spending for health and emergency services in its ratings, said Nassau received a perfect score this year.
According to federal statistics, the county spends $1,148 per capita on police and fire protection, compared with the national median of $359. The county’s violent crime rate is 143.6 per 100,000 people, compared with the national average of 204.6 per 100,000 people, according to the statistics.