Democrat Kevin Thomas is vying for a chance to represent the State Senate’s 6th District and unseat Incumbent Kemp Hannon, a Republican who has filled the role since 1989.
The Herald asked both candidates a series of questions that pertain to the district’s coverage area, which includes East Meadow, Seaford, Wantagh, Bethpage, Farmingdale, Levittown, Massapequa and Uniondale.
Herald: What do you plan to do to make for safer schools? Are you in favor of armed guards in schools? If so, how would you propose implementing them?
Hannon: Everyone deserves safe schools. Making sure our children and schools are safe is a top priority. Having armed guards in a school is a decision best left up to the parents, teachers and schools in each community. I was instrumental in plotting monies in the budget for school safety. I voted for legislation in the Senate to provide peace officer status to retired police officers when they are employed by a school as a school resource officer in order to make having qualified security affordable to school districts. We also passed legislation to increase the earning limitations for retired police offers while employed by a school from the current $30,000 per year limit to $50,000 per year limit. Unfortunately, these measures have not passed in the Assembly.
Thomas: I am not in favor of more armed guards in schools, I am in favor of better gun control measures overall, like the New York red flag law. I do not believe more guns are the solution to the gun violence epidemic in the U.S.
Herald: While the death toll from the opioid epidemic appears to have finally turned a corner and begun to slowly decline, there are still too many young people dying from addiction, which medical journals now deem a disease. A big part of the problem is lack of access to treatment due to a disparity in health insurance coverage. What would you do to try and change this?
Hannon: As chair of the Senate’s Health Committee I have focused attention on the opioid epidemic for many years. In 2012, I wrote a report on the prescription opioid crisis and outlined a series of steps that should be taken. I continued my focus and today most of the suggestions in that report have been adopted. We created I-STOP to monitor all narcotic/opioid prescriptions and stop doctor shopping. We required doctors to take continuing education in addiction. We limited the initial script for acute pain medication to a seven-day supply. We’ve increased access to Naloxone, which can reverse an overdose. We have increased access to insurance coverage, including medication-assisted treatment and prohibiting insurers from requiring prior approval for the first 14 days of inpatient and more recently out patient treatment. Recognizing that problems people continue to face accessing care, this year we created an Ombudsman to assist people who are facing problems with health insurance coverage for treatment. We also prohibited “brokers” who make money from sending people in need of treatment to expensive, out of state programs where they end up using up all their insurance coverage. Finally, This year I was also successful at getting the Drug Take Back Act signed into law, which will help get unneeded drugs out of medicine cabinets because all chain pharmacies will have to provide a way to dispose of medications and the manufactures will pay for the cost of proper disposal.
Thomas: First I believe we need to hold opioid manufacturers that push doctors to over prescribe opiods responsible in order to continue to strongly deter further widespread use. Second, we need more social workers and addiction treatment centers and studies have shown that safe injection sites, properly regulated, reduce addiction. Last, I am in favor of universal health coverage and will work to pass landmark legislation like the NY Health Act to ensure that all New Yorkers have health coverage.
Herald: What do you think can be done on a state level, and in communities, to stop the violence of MS-13? Do you support putting money into more preventative programs to slow or stop recruitment?
Hannon: Stopping the violence of MS-13 has been incredibly challenging. Nationally, we need to try and keep members coming into the United States and extradite those who commit crimes in the US. New York needs to insure young people do not become prey for MS-13 recruiters. I fully support providing funds for more preventative programs and as part of this year’s budget we allocated nearly $19 million for Long Island anti-gang efforts. The Senate also passed legislation this year, which I voted in favor of, to strengthen penalties against gangs, creating a new “criminal Street Gang Prevention Fund partially funded through asset forfeiture, and increase penalties for gangs trying to recruit on school grounds.” Addressing MS-13 gangs requires a multi prong approach at all levels of government.
Thomas: I entirely am in favor of boosting preventative programs from social outreach to after school program and gang interdiction/prevention programs. MS 13 is a plague not only on the larger population but also inside the immigrant community. Instead of stigmatizing all immigrants, we should be working with immigrant community leaders to eradicate, in every way possible, their recruitment pipelines: That starts with youth education.
Herald: What is your plan to keep young people living on Long Island after they move out of their parent's homes and/or graduate college?
Hannon: As the parent of two daughters who were raised on Long Island and went to college on Long Island, I know first-hand how hard it is to keep young people on the Island. We must work to maintain good paying jobs in our communities, keep property taxes under control and make sure we continue to have some of the best schools available for our grandchildren. My Senate colleagues and I put forward and passed a “jobs and opportunity agenda” this year. The agenda includes bills to reduce businesses taxes, remove regulatory barriers to growth, and invest in workforce development. The STAR tax credits have been very helpful, and this package of legislation would create a new STAR for small businesses. In addition to creating a better businesses environment, I have also worked hard to support the 2 percent property tax cap, which has saved Long Island families millions of dollars. I have also fought for record school funding. Over the past 7 years, since the Republicans have regained control of the Senate, school funding has increased an average of 4.32 percent per year. This year we delivered a $1 billion school aid increase. Keeping young people on long Island is important and I believe pursing measures such as these can make the difference.
Thomas: Student debt is a crisis in the U.S. and especially on Long Island. That’s why I am going to work overtime to eliminate student debt just like I have for the last decade as a legal services attorney. Not only dealing with student debt we need to invest in job creation programs for long island and affordable housing initiatives. The primary reason young people are leaving long island is due to limited job opportunities and the high cost of living, especially as it relates to housing. As far as student debt is concerned we should be working to eliminate debt not matter a student's living status. Before or after graduation. There is 0 reasons why a student is paying over 15, 16, 17 percent on a loan while mortgage rates are in the single digits.