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State Legislature targets code-violating landlords in Buffalo

ALBANY – State lawmakers Wednesday night approved a measure to go after landlords who fail to maintain their residential rental buildings in Buffalo.

The measure was among a rush of bills pushed through as the Legislature attempted to end its 2018 session. In the Assembly, business wrapped up about 11:30 p.m., while the Senate took a couple hours longer to end what was an especially divisive session in that chamber.

A smooth end to the session fell apart, as talks stalled during the afternoon and evening to extend a number of municipalities’ tax and bonding authorities – risking financial problems for such communities.

Each house threatened to leave Albany without acting, a symbol of a session marked by increasing partisan divides.

On the negotiating table Wednesday evening was an effort to start a demonstration program in Buffalo to catch – via camera – drivers who speed in 20 Buffalo school-zone neighborhoods. It died. Surviving: the ability of many communities to continue various local tax programs, such as levies imposed on hotel stays in their localities.

Both houses on Wednesday OK'd a bill to permit Buffalo to go after slumlords who fail to keep up their properties or fix safety violations.

Under the legislation – sponsored by Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes and Sen. Timothy Kennedy, Buffalo Democrats – nonresident owners of rental properties in the city who fail to pay building code violations will have the financial obligations turned into tax liens.

The measure is intended to give the city more legal power to target landlords who let properties deteriorate. By turning the unpaid fines into tax obligations, it will also make it easier for the city to bring foreclosure actions against landlords.

State Legislature in Albany targets code-violating landlords in Buffalo

The Legislature approved a bill permitting charitable organizations – mostly veterans’ groups – to offer electronic versions of bell jar games, which presently are akin to paper versions of slot machines. Under the bill, eligible charities can install electronic bell jar machines, which will give gamblers the feel of wagering on slot machines.

The Seneca Nation of Indians, which has not publicly commented on the measure, is expected to bring a legal challenge to the measure if signed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

The tribe has a gambling exclusivity deal with the state against new types of casino-like games being brought into a large area of Western New York.

Bell jar games are popular in Western New York. Chautauqua County led all counties in the state in 2016 with bell jar sales of $23.7 million, according to records compiled by the state gaming commission.

Erie County was third busiest in sales of bell jar tickets.

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