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Cuomo vetoes bill that would have allowed Buffalo to handle traffic violations

ALBANY – A long-sought measure to permit Buffalo to handle traffic violations within city limits and keep the revenues has been vetoed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Cuomo pledged to fix the measure in upcoming budget talks.

The city already banked more than $2 million in its current budget counting on the assumed revenues with the traffic court legislation, which passed both the Senate and Assembly last year.

Cuomo said the legislation had some “serious flaws” that were to have been addressed by both houses in Albany to change some parts of the bill. Cuomo in a veto message did not specifically identify the problems, but said that if he signed the measure it would “immediately inconvenience motorists who have pending matters” in the current adjudication system, which has for years been operated by the state motor vehicles department.

Administration officials later explained that the measure’s chief flaw was that its effective date was immediate, meaning there would be no transition time to permit for a smooth shifting of operations from state control of adjudicating traffic violations to the city. There are also still outstanding questions, officials said, involving such matters as burdens of proof, rules of evidence, funding for a new Buffalo city agency, how previously issued tickets get handled, the role of administrative law judges and employment matters affecting current state motor vehicle department staff who now handle the traffic violation work in the city.

Unlike other cities and many suburban communities, the city has not been able to adjudicate traffic violations, nor keep any of the resulting money; that all goes now to Albany.

The measure that passed last year, after years of attempts, would let violators have an option to plea bargain and go to traffic school and “thus hopefully becoming a safer and better driver.” The school option would also eliminate points a violation would slap on a license, helping to keep insurance rates for traffic violators lower.

“City of Buffalo residents already pay higher insurance rates and this system only causes these rates to increase without any of the options that are offered in the surrounding areas,” according to a bill memo accompanying the legislation that Cuomo vetoed.

Cuomo, in his veto message, said he would include a remedy in his upcoming 30-day amendments to his 2015 state budget plan, thereby resolving the matter when the budget is adopted. The state’s fiscal year starts April 1.