Niagara Gazette

January 14, 2013

County legislative committees reorganized

Staff reports
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Chairmen were appointed to five Niagara County Legislature standing committees by the Republican-led majority caucus this week.

Tony Nemi, R-Lockport, a retired city recreation director, will head up the administration committee, which has the final say over most legislation, including all bills that call for money to be spent.

Nemi is swapping chairmanships with former administration head William Keith McNall, R-Lockport, a Delphi retiree, who’s been named chairman of the Community Services committee.

The latter committee keeps watch over issues and spending affecting the social services, employment and training, youth, aging, public health, mental health and history departments, as well as Niagara County Community College, the county clerk’s and veterans services offices.

Legislator David Godfrey, R-Wilson, an information technology specialist, will head up the community safety and security committee, which oversees the sheriff’s, district attorney’s, indigent defense, probation and coroner’s offices, and the Emergency Services department. Godfrey replaces outgoing CS&S Chair Paul Wojtaszek, R-North Tonawanda, an attorney who’s been named chairman of the public works committee, which keeps tabs on the public works, parks, refuse disposal, sewer, water and weights/measures departments.

Majority caucus leadership picked one “new face” to lead a major legislative committee. Freshman legislator Kathryn Lance, R-Wheatfield, will chair the economic development committee that keeps tabs on the economic development department and the county Industrial Development Agency. Lance, a reading teacher in the Buffalo School District, replaces Majority Leader Richard Updegrove, R-Lockport, as chairman.

Per an amendment to the legislature’s Rules of Order passed late last year, the majority and minority caucus leaders can no longer chair a standing committee. Nor can the legislature chairman or vice chairman.

Also per the amendment, the majority and minority leaders are filling committee seats proportionate to their caucus’ shares of legislative seats.

Further, committees are reduced to five members a piece from seven members — which, minority caucus leader Dennis Virtuoso, D-Niagara Falls, pointed out, means a majority of three legislators, rather than five, can advance or sink legislation now.

In the overwhelmingly GOP-led legislature, the majority caucus named four members of every committee.

Committes and their full memberships are:

• Administration — Nemi; vice chairman Rick Updegrove; Godfrey; Wojtaszek; and Virtuoso.

• Community Safety & Security — Godfrey; vice chairman Clyde Burmaster, R-Ransomville, who is also legislature vice chairman; Nemi; Peter Smolinski, R-North Tonawanda; and Jason Zona, D-Niagara Falls.

• Community Services — McNall; vice chairman Cheree J. Copelin, R-Niagara Falls; Burmaster; Smolinski; and Owen Steed, D-Niagara Falls.

• Public Works — Wojtaszek; vice chairman John Syracuse, R-Newfane; Michael A. Hill, R-Middleport; Updegrove; and Steed.

• Economic Development — Lance, McNall, Copelin, Godfrey and Zona.