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Cuomo goes on veto frenzy late Monday, killing 72 bills

Gov. Andrew Cuomo went on a veto frenzy Monday night, killing 72 bills intended to do everything from improve the state’s disaster preparedness plans to coordinate upstate transit system improvements.

One lawmaker called the vetoes the "Monday night massacre'' that hit across party lines and came at a time when Cuomo is trying to lure lawmakers back to the Capitol for a special session on a number of policy matters.

Of 133 bills lawmakers sent to him two weeks ago to consider, he vetoed 54 percent of them late Monday night sometime before midnight.

The governor, a proponent of expanded gambling opportunities, vetoed a measure that would give charitable organizations more ways to sell raffle tickets.

The governor offered varied explanations for his vetoes, including costs, unintended consequences and violating the state constitution.

Cuomo also approved 62 bills that were sent to him 10 days ago as part of a 133-bill package of leftover legislation from the session that ended in June. Many were minor in nature or hyperlocal, affecting just one region or community in the state. Another 25 various bills still have not yet been sent to him for consideration.

The governor vetoed a measure intended to increase gambling ventures by charitable organizations. The legislation, sponsored by Assemblyman Robin Schimminger, a Kenmore Democrat, and Sen. Patrick Gallivan, an Elma Republican, would let charities sell raffle tickets over the internet. The charitable organizations, which must be registered with the state Gaming Commission and run the gamut from volunteer fire companies to veterans organizations, have seen gambling revenues drop in the face of more lottery, casino and online wagering. The measure would also permit gamblers who buy the online raffles to pay with a credit or debit card.

“As structured, the bill runs afoul of the New York State Constitution,’’ Cuomo said in vetoing the bill.

He noted, for instance, that charitable gambling is permitted only in areas where local municipalities have also given their approval. Allowing internet raffle sales would make a local charity’s gambling a statewide concern, not just a local one, he said.

Cuomo added that allowing charities to advertise raffles online would “veer into the realm of commercialized activity that the Constitution specifically directs the Legislature to forbid.’’

The state is already being sued for legislation signed earlier this year by Cuomo permitting daily fantasy sports contests. Those bringing that lawsuit call it a form of gambling that can occur only with a change in the state Constitution.

There are 9,871 organizations eligible in New York to conduct raffles, according to the state Gaming Commission. Groups that raise less than $20,000 a year through raffles do not need state or local permission and must “self-certify” that they are legitimate charities.

Lawmakers said a range of charitable organizations have asked for permission to sell raffles over the internet and to permit people to pay for the games of chance with credit or debit cards.

Schimminger said he and Gallivan were originally approached by the Buffalo Sabres Foundation with the idea as a way to drive more revenues to the not-for-profit, which funds a range of health care, sports, adolescent and veterans-related programs in the Buffalo area.

As for Cuomo’s claims that the bill would have gutted local control over charitable raffle contests, Schimminger accused the administration of “conjuring up a problem that doesn’t exist.’’

He said the bill changed nothing regarding local say over charities’ ability to conduct raffle contests.

Schimminger said the veto will have real impacts on charitable groups’ ability to raise money.

“The vetoing of this legislation will compromise their ability to move forward in helping more groups help people,’’ Schimminger said specifically of the Buffalo Sabres Foundation.

Gallivan said he disagreed with the administration’s legal basis for the veto.

“We believe we took care of the constitutional issue with the language of the bill,’’ he said.

The senator said the administration pledged on Tuesday to work with him on a charitable donation bill next session that “catches up to the times’’ and Cuomo, in his veto message, said he recognizes "the need to modernize charitable gaming laws.''

The Buffalo Sabres Foundation raises about $1.4 million annually in 50-50 contests at the NHL team’s 41 home games. It expected a boost in revenues had fans at the games been able to use credit or debit cards to buy raffle tickets.

Rich Jureller, president of the Sabres foundation, said the group is disappointed in Cuomo's veto.

"The legislation featured common-sense changes that would have allowed not-for-profit organizations in New York to use advances in technology and payment methods to raise additional funds for their charities. We believe strongly in the positive impact this law would have on not-for-profit organizations and we'll continue to get it passed during the next legislative session,'' he said.

[Read the governor's veto letters]

In other bill decisions, Cuomo:

  •  Vetoed a change to the state’s emergency plan to try to ensure for the delivery of prescription medications and other medical supplies to hospitals and other health settings during a state emergency. The legislation cited travel bans for delays in medicine reaching patients in Buffalo’s 2014 storm and 2012’s Hurricane Sandy. Cuomo called the bill flawed for a number of reasons, including emergency management laws that give local chief executives “discretion to address the unique needs of their jurisdictions.’’
  • Approved a bill allowing New Yorkers to direct income tax refunds to a 529 college saving plan.
  • Agreed to lift a moratorium by the state environmental conservation agency declaring that mute swans are a “prohibited invasive species.’’
  • Signed a bill requiring telemarketers to list a legitimate number for caller identification screens on a consumer’s phone.
  • Approved an additional vehicle check during annual state inspection: the level of darkness of tinted windows. Windows that are too dark – with light transmittance levels of less than 70 percent – will now cause the entire car to flunk an inspection.
  • Vetoed a bill permitting pharmacists to refill non-controlled drug prescriptions for periods up to 90 days instead of for 30-day supplies. Among his concerns was letting pharmacists unilaterally decide if a 90-day supply could be furnished.
  • Spiked a bill creating a Temporary Advisory Board on Upstate Transit Funding, which was to look at various issues about upstate transit systems. Cuomo said the board would be required to produce too hasty of a report and that such funding issues are better left for the state budget deliberations.
  • Vetoed a bill that would have required regular inspections of ramps at parking structures in the state.
  • Signed a bill to criminalize the use of software ticket purchasing “bots” that are capable – at the expense of consumers -- of buying mass amounts of tickets to popular sports and entertainment events.

Cuomo also signed a bill, whose sponsors included Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer, an Amherst Republican, to limit the time in which agencies can appeal a judge’s order that information sought under the state’s Freedom of Information Law be released.

Agencies reluctant to provide information under FOIL can exhaust numerous delays to block the release. Under current law, an agency can wait nine months to appeal a judge’s information release order. Under the new measure signed into law late Monday night, that appeal must be made within 60 days.

Reclaim New York, a government watchdog group, said the new law is important. The group said the Legislature now needs to fully open its records under the state’s FOIL provisions.

“There is no way for our state to clean up the widespread corruption that has shattered faith in our government when important entities exempt themselves from citizen oversight,’’ the group said Tuesday.

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