Cornered by Covid, Long Island Lawmakers Adapt to Legislating from Home

  • May 20, 2021
Cornered by Covid, Long Island Lawmakers Adapt to Legislating from Home

By Tania Taheri
JRN 490, Spring 2021

Suffolk County legistators
Suffolk County legislators using new monitors to see their colleagues who have chosen to attend meetings virtually due to the pandemic. Photo courtesy of Suffolk County.

Lawmakers on Long Island have transitioned to remote legislating — voting, holding press conferences, and attending committee hearings virtually — to continue to support and connect with their communities during the pandemic. That required a major technological face-lift for two of the oldest governments in the U.S.

“COVID has put us where we should have been years ago,” Suffolk County Legislator Samuel Gonzalez said. “Social media and technology are now more advanced within legislation and the legislature than ever before. We have reached where we should have been with technology.”

To ensure continuity of government in the face of unprecedented challenges, $300,000 was allocated to upgrade Suffolk County Legislature’s Rose Caracappa Auditorium in Hauppauge.

This project includes new installations of cameras and monitors to allow Suffolk lawmakers to follow a hybrid format of legislative meetings where some legislators choose to attend meetings in-person while others attend virtually.

“Instead of installing plexiglass barriers, I looked for a long-term solution,” County Presiding Officer Rob Calarco said. “Every legislator now has a monitor displaying the Zoom meeting so they can see their colleagues who are not present in the auditorium. We also installed larger monitors facing towards the audience so the public can see the legislators participating from home as well.”

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