By Jon Campbell, Albany Bureau
ALBANY A total of 67 bills await Gov. Andrew Cuomo's approval or rejection, with a decision due on three by the end of Friday and the rest by July 13.
The state Legislature passed 650 bills this year before ending its 2013 session in June. After the session, the Senate and Assembly send bills to Cuomo's desk in batches, and each time it starts a 10-day clock for Cuomo to act.
Among the bills currently before Cuomo are several that would extend or change a county's sales tax rate, legislation that would allow New York City to use the old-style level voting machines for the primary elections in this year's mayoral race, and a bill that would ban smoking in all playgrounds outside of the city.
Richard Azzopardi, a spokesman for Cuomo, said the governor's office is reviewing the legislation. Cuomo hasn't committed to acting on any of the bills, aside from one measure that would exempt retired law enforcement officials from much of the state's stricter gun laws passed in January.
The sales-tax bills have been a biennial occurrence in Albany since the 1970s. New York law only allows counties to charge a sales tax of up to 3 percent unless receiving permission from the state Legislature. The state charges 4 percent.
This year, the Legislature passed 51 bills allowing specific counties to charge a higher amount, with most hovering around an additional percentage point. In his budget proposal this year, Cuomo proposed allowing counties to charge 4 percent without legislative approval, but it was rejected by the state Assembly.
The approval system has long been criticized by the state Association of Counties, which says it is unnecessary and leads to occasional showdowns. This year, a dispute over Ulster County's tax rate led to the bill getting bottled up in committee.
"It clogs and unnecessarily consumes the legislative business that needs to take place in Albany," said Stephen Acquario, the association's executive director. "These are extensions and most have been on the books since the 1970s. There's just no need to go through this process anymore."
Among the county sales-tax bills currently on Cuomo's desk is one for Chenango, which would allow the county to continue charging 4 percent. A separate bill would allow Rye Brook, Westchester County, to continue charging a hotel occupancy tax until 2016.
Meanwhile, Cuomo signed four bills Wednesday to name roads or bridges in memory of New York veterans.
Under one of the new laws, a portion of State Route 14A in Schuyler and Yates counties will be named the "Christopher J. Scott Memorial Highway." Scott, an Army specialist, was killed in September 2011 by enemy fire while stationed in Kandahar, Afghanistan.
The bill was sponsored by Sen. Thomas O'Mara, R-Big Flats, Chemung County, and Assembly Phil Palmesano, R-Corning, Steuben County.
"The designation of the Christopher J. Scott Memorial Highway offers another opportunity for the community to salute and to express our enduring respect for Christopher's courageous and brave service to our nation," Palmesano said in a statement.
Among the other newly named roads or bridges are the Staff Sergeant William R. Wilson III Memorial Highway on Interstate 990 in Erie County and the John Stow Vietnam Veterans and MIA Memorial Bridge on State Route 394 in Chautauqua County.