In the six months since he won a February special election, state Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Little Neck) said he has hit the ground running and will continue to fight for middle-class residents if he is fortunate enough to win re-election in November.
Weprin was known for leading the fight against double-digit water rate increases while he was on the City Council and said he proposed a bill in Albany to restructure the city Water Board.
While all seven members of the board are filled by mayoral appointments, Weprin is proposing that the mayor select three members with the Council appointing another three and the seventh filled by the city comptroller with the chairman being independently elected by the seven members.
Weprin said he is optimistic the Assembly will pass a bill he sponsored to put a 5 percent cap on annual water rate increases, although the city is arguing that such a limitation would interfere with bond covenants.
As the former chairman of the Council’s Finance Committee, Weprin played a key role in budget negotiations between the Council and mayor.
Weprin faces Glen Oaks Village President Bob Friedrich in September’s Democratic primary. Friedrich is also running under the Conservative Party line.
Timothy Furey is the only Republican candidate in the race for the 24th Assembly District seat, which covers Bellerose, Bayside, Douglaston, Floral Park, Fresh Meadows, Glen Oaks, Hollis, Holliswood, Little Neck, New Hyde Park, Oakland Gardens and Queens Village.
Weprin called the state budget, which passed five months late, “tough,” but commended his colleagues for approving it without any increases to income taxes.
“I am proud that we passed the budget without borrowing,” he said during an interview Friday at the TimesLedger Newspapers’ offices in Bayside, noting that the debt service in the budget has ballooned from 5 cents for every dollar spent to 20 cents. “We got through a very large deficit.”
With the state Legislature being derided as a dysfunctional body, Weprin said he supports a unicameral Legislature because “it’s very hard to get things done.”
He accused Republicans of being “in total campaign mode” and said he hoped Democrats will get a bigger majority in the Senate, where he said the GOP had tied up many important bills, including the budget.
“Dean Skelos said, ‘We’re going to vote no on everything,’” Weprin said, referring to the Senate Minority Leader from Long Island.
While Weprin is new to the Assembly, he said he has not faced any obstacles in achieving results.
He noted he was a co-prime sponsor of the state’s no-fault divorce bill signed into law by Gov. David Paterson two weeks ago, making New York the last state to approve such legislation.
The law, which takes effect in about three months, allows couples to site irreconcilable differences when getting a divorce.
As a former deputy secretary of banks under former Gov. Mario Cuomo and ex-chairman of the Securities Industry Association for the New York District, Weprin said his financial experience and appointment to the Assembly Banking Committee have led him to find ways to strengthen consumer banking legislation.
Weprin said he is proposing changes to the law so municipalities can get loans from savings and loans and credit unions as well as consumer banks, which he said would make for more competitive interest rates.
On education, Weprin said he is fighting to ensure that city School District 26 — one of the highest performing school districts in the city — has its funding for specialized programs intact.
He said schools in the district get less funding than others because formulas are based on how many students get free or subsidized lunches and few pupils get that treatment in District 26.
Public safety is another issue important to Weprin and he said he is proposing a bill that prohibits adults from smoking in a car in which children 16 years old or younger are passengers.
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz