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Cuomo takes veto pen to 31 bills

ALBANY – It was a busy, late night for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

Sometime before midnight Wednesday, Cuomo vetoed 31 pieces of legislation touching on everything from electronic cigarette laws to state recognition of a Long Island Indian tribe.

In Western New York, the veto capturing the most attention was Cuomo’s decision to reject a bill to keep open the West Seneca Children’s Psychiatric Center. But Cuomo used his veto powers broadly across the state.

One bill would have expanded the audit authority of the state comptroller over the State Insurance Fund. Cuomo said it was unneeded and would slow down payment processing.

Another vetoed measure would have enhanced the state’s ability to enforce the law against sales of electronic cigarettes to minors, supporters say. Cuomo says his administration will continue to work on the issue.

The American Lung Association’s New York chapter noted that federal standards, unlike New York, already classify e-cigarettes as tobacco products and that it's time the state license vendors who sell them.

“This legislation has broad, bipartisan support because it would help give the state a realistic picture on exactly who is selling these products and confirm our belief that e-cigarette vendors have proliferated across the state in recent years,’’ said Kristina Wieneke, public policy director at the health group.

Another bill Cuomo vetoed would have required state agencies to make their websites accessible to mobile devices.

“The state remains in the technological dark ages in terms of providing mobile-friendly access to citizens who rely on the state’s services and resources,’’ according to a legislative memo explaining the “mobile-friendly” legislation that passed overwhelmingly in both houses in June.

“Being the vast majority of state-affiliated websites are only available in desktop format, the state is effectively double-dipping by making residents use more of that data plans to access critical information and resources, while taxing use of such mobile devices via cellphone and utility taxes,’’ the memo states.

Cuomo said the bill is not needed because the administration already is working on the matter and all agencies will offer mobile websites – by 2022.

The Montaukett Indian tribe on Long Island was, again, rejected in its attempt to get official recognition as a tribe from New York. Cuomo said there is a process for such recognition that the Legislature did not follow.

And he again vetoed lawmakers’ attempts to boost pension benefits for certain state and local government employees, saying the money was not identified to cover the $53 million in short-term costs of the sweeteners.

After vetoing the 31 bills Wednesday night, Cuomo on Thursday morning signed 43 other bills into law. But in a number of cases the governor said he was signing the bills only because lawmakers since June have agreed to amend the measures next year.

He signed a bill mandating that the state health department take enforcement action against properties deemed to be at high risk of being sources for lead poisoning. Cuomo OK'd it after lawmakers agreed to an amended bill next year dropping that the enforcement actions also include a formal hearing.

Cuomo also signed legislation to codify into law existing rules requiring insurers to cover 3-D breast mammography procedures, if they deem them medically necessary.

Other bills he signed:

  • State parole board decisions will be posted online within 60 days.
  • Breweries, cideries and distilleries will get the same benefit now enjoyed by wineries to be exempt from sales taxes on fees charged for tasting of their products.
  • Prohibiting the transportation of used mattresses with new mattresses unless they are sterilized.
  • Repeat offenders of the state’s deer hunting laws will face higher penalties.
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