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Mandate-relief panel to weigh amendment

A gubernatorial panel is considering a new draft plan to amend the State Constitution to bar the state from imposing new mandated services on local governments unless the state pays for the requirements.

The idea, presented to a mandate-relief panel by a top aide to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, also would permit the costly requirements only if required by federal laws or constitution; court orders; or if the locality voted to accept the mandated service.

The ban would halt any state law requiring local governments to "provide a higher level of service for a specific existing program, project or activity."

Larry Schwartz, an adviser to Cuomo, on Monday told a panel of lawmakers, local government officials and others that the proposal is a "first effort" on the idea to block future mandated costs on localities.

The task force, however, broke up its meeting before debating the new plan.

"That is hitting the mandate right in the nose," said Timothy Kremer, a task force member and executive director of the New York State School Boards Association.

But Kremer is worried that the constitutional amendment route could be lengthy and difficult. Amending the constitution requires passage by two separately elected sessions of the State Legislature and then approval by voters in a statewide referendum. It means the plan would not be available for a referendum until November 2013 at the earliest.

Schwartz also floated a change in the law that would serve as a placeholder until the constitutional amendment passes. It requires any bill causing additional costs on localities to contain a "fiscal impact note" that would be performed by the fiscal committee of each house instead of, as is current practice, the sponsor of the bill seeking to add some new mandated service.


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