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Cuomo wields veto pen across party lines in what's called 'Monday night massacre'

New York   ·   Public Transportation   ·   The Buffalo News

ALBANY - Gov. Andrew M. 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 extent of the vetoes the "Monday night massacre"' that hit across party lines and came as Cuomo tries to lure lawmakers back to the State Capitol for a special session on a number of policy matters.

Of 133 bills that lawmakers sent to him two weeks ago for consideration, he vetoed 54 percent of them sometime before Monday's midnight deadline.

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 L. Schimminger, D-Kenmore, and Sen. Patrick M. Gallivan, R-Elma, 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 use 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 regarding legislation signed earlier this year by Cuomo permitting daily online 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 conduct 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 organization, which funds a range of health care, sports, adolescent and veterans-related programs in the Buffalo area.

As for Cuomo's contention that the bill would have gutted local control over charitable raffles, Schimminger accused the administration of "conjuring up a problem that doesn't exist." He said the bill would have changed nothing regarding local say over charities' ability to conduct raffles.

Schimminger said the veto will have real effects 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 Sabres Foundation.

Gallivan said he disagreed with the Cuomo 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 Cuomo administration pledged Tuesday to work with him on a charitable-donation bill in the 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 Sabres Foundation raises about $1.4 million annually in 50-50 contests at the National Hockey League 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.

Richard J. 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," Jureller said. "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."

In other decisions on legislation, 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 November 2014 snowstorm and Superstorm Sandy in 2012. 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 savings plan.

· Agreed to lift a moratorium by the state Department of Environmental Conservation 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 degree of tint on vehicle windows. Windows that are too dark - with light transmittance levels of less than 70 percent - will cause the entire car to fail an inspection.

· Vetoed a bill that would have permitted pharmacists to refill prescriptions on noncontrolled drugs for periods of up to 90 days instead of 30. Among his concerns was letting pharmacists unilaterally decide whether a 90-day supply could be given.

· Vetoed 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 ticket-purchasing software 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 H. Ranzenhofer, R-Amherst, 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, 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 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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