Two legislators who are making a difference


The year just finished wasn’t a good one for politicians, or politics in general. We have two wars, an inept majority in the House of Representatives, an up-and-down economy and the prospect of having two candidates for president who are both highly unpopular. But rather than begin the new year on a down note, I would like to focus on two elected officials who have gained my greatest respect.

Most voters don’t talk about state legislators over dinner. Legislators don’t get much publicity, but quite a few of them work diligently throughout the year and deserve a pat on the back. Being a former state assemblyman, I can recognize the qualities make a good legislator. Which is why I want to single out Democratic Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages and Republican Assemblyman Ed Ra.

I had the good fortune recently to have lunch with Solages — who prefers the nickname Mickey — and walked away impressed with her work and her dedication to lots of good causes. She is serving her fifth term representing a very diverse community stretching from Valley Stream to Bellerose. She is the first person of Haitian descent to be elected to the State Legislature, and her hard work on behalf of minorities has vaulted her into the position of chair of the state Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic & Asian Legislative Caucus.

Being the chair of this caucus isn’t an easy job. It is a very powerful group in Albany, and it only chooses true leaders to make it an effective force in a sometimes very divided legislative body. Solages keeps the group focused, and is very articulate on caucus issues. She holds the title of Assembly deputy majority leader, and in that role she is responsible for rounding up votes during floor debates.

I was very impressed with her dedication to finding affordable housing opportunities on Long Island. It’s no secret that our young people are leaving the Island, because it costs too much to live here, and they don’t want to live at home with their parents.

In the Assembly, Solages is a major voice speaking out about improving access to quality child care. Working mothers need a strong advocate to help get state funds, and she is at the forefront of that effort.

Having been the chair of the Assembly Ways and Means Committee, I have strong feelings about the role of the committee and its effectiveness. Assemblyman Ra holds the title of ranking member on Ways and Means, which makes him his party’s voice during deliberations on key bills. Over the course of the year, Ways and Means members have the chance to vote on as many as 5,000 bills, so being a committee member is a big deal.

Ra has proven to be an informed voice on a variety of issues, and he has become the suburban voice for his fellow Republican Assembly members. One of his major interests has been education initiatives. He has fought for a more stringent teacher evaluation system, and has become a vocal supporter of special education programs of the kind offered by the Henry Viscardi School in Albertson. Ra has gotten more state funding for these efforts by getting the state to institute a fairer reimbursement system.

One of the assignments that he has handled with class is the job of assistant minority leader. The position requires him to be familiar with almost every bill slated for debate, and to make strong arguments pro or con. There’s no way that a floor leader can wing it when the arguments start flying. Ra has shown an encyclopedic knowledge of multiple issues.

It’s nice to have a chance to highlight the hard work of two very effective Long Island legislators. There are many others, but Mickey Solages and Ed Ra stand out in many ways. I wish I could also applaud our members of Congress, but they’re under constant pressure from the crazy Freedom Caucus to impeach President Biden. The current House has passed the fewest bills in memory, and Long Island needs a little more attention.

Jerry Kremer was an Assemblyman for 23 years, and chaired the Assembly’s Ways and Means Committee for 12 years. He now heads Empire Government Strategies, a business development and legislative strategy firm. Comments about this column?