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Avella earns ranking committee spots in Senate debut

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) is one of three freshmen Democratic senators to be appointed as ranking minority members of legislative committees in Albany, Sen. Democratic Leader John Sampson (D-Brooklyn) announced last week.

Avella, who represents the 11th Senate District, is the ranking member for the Democrats of the Cities and Environmental Protection committees and will serve on the Education, Aging and Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs committees.

“As a freshman senator, it is an honor to have been tasked to serve on five committees and to be a ranking member on two,” Avella said. “As ranking member, I will be the point person for the members of my conference on bills that will go before my committees. This will allow me to point out any problems or flaws pertaining to a particular bill to emphasize the importance of specific legislation.”

The other new Democrats who were appointed ranking members were Sens. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) and Tim Kennedy (D-Erie County). Gianaris will head the Codes Committee and Kennedy will lead the Commerce, Economic Development and Commerce Committee.

Ranking members review all bills that go before their respective committees and serve as the authority to whom other committee members can direct questions regarding the bills. Ranking members are also influential in the appointment of new commissioners for state agencies.

After being sworn into office in the beginning of January, Avella, who toppled former Republican Sen. Frank Padavan in November’s election, said he planned to focus on the state budget and ethics reform.

“I’m worried about how the budget cuts will impact everybody — in the state, in New York City, in Queens and in my district,” Avella said last week. “Will the discretionary funds, which the nonprofits depend upon, be cut like they were last year?”

A number of Queens lawmakers landed leadership positions in a number of committees. Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans) is the ranking Democratic of banks, Sen. Shirley Huntley (D-Jamaica) was appointed the minority party’s leader of the Ethics and the Mental Health and Development Disabilities committees, Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone), is the ranking minority member of the Higher Education Committee, for which she had served as chairwoman when Democrats were in the majority, Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) is the ranking member of the Labor Committee and Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) is the ranking member of the Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs Committee.

“The economic crisis of the last two years has demonstrated to all New Yorkers that government cannot function as it always has,” Sampson said in a statement announcing the ranking members. “In order to create jobs and rebuild our economy, we need to do things differently. Our conference is taking that approach to governance by championing ethics, budget and redistricting reform.”

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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