By Tom Precious
ALBANY -- Bad Buffalo Bills' karma?
The downstate member of the Assembly who on Monday criticized the multi-million dollar deal to keep the Buffalo Bills in Western New York was arrested a couple days later by State Police for marijuana possession.
The State Police announced today that Assemblyman Stephen Katz, of Mohegan Lake in Westchester County, was charged with unlawful possession of marijuana. The drug, the amount of which authorities did not immediately release, was found during a routine traffic stop Thursday at 10:am on the Thruway in the Town of Coeymans, a suburb of Albany. He was released with an appearance traffic ticket and is to appear in Coeymans town court on March 28.
On Monday night, Katz, a Republican, took to the Assembly floor to criticize the deal cut by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in December to keep the Bills in Buffalo. It includes $54 million in state capital costs, which is contained in the budget bill lawmakers are considering as part of the 2013 state budget talks.
Katz, 59, questioned the logic of giving so much money "to billionaires who can more than afford to stay right here.''
"Aren't they wealthy enough that they can handle their own operating support?'' Katz said, adding that he did not see the return on the investment for the state or Buffalo for such a large public investment.
"I don't see that this is the financial boon to the city of Buffalo,'' he said on the floor.
Katz, who represents parts of Putnam and Westchester counties, was first elected to the Assembly in 2010. He is a veterinarian and lives in Mohegan Lake where he lives with his family "and numerous animals,'' according to his official Assembly biography.
UPDATE: The State Police said Katz was stopped going northbound on the Thruway -- Thursday was a session day at the Capitol -- for going 80 mph in a 65 mph zone. The trooper noticed an odor of marijuana and Katz was arrested for what police described as a "small bag'' of the drug.
Ironically, Katz last year voted against a bill to legalize marijuana use by people with certain serious medical conditions, including cancer and chronic pain. And a week ago, he put out a press release condemning illegal drug use following publicity about drug arrests police made in Yorktown in Westchester County.
That Katz was speeding, too, may not have been a surprise: the Assembly went into session Thursday morning at 10:07. Police said the violations were issued at 10am in a town about 20 minutes from the Capitol. He missed the first vote of the day and later participated in a debate on a pain management bill.
Katz ran into some controversy last spring when the Gannett's Albany bureau reported he acknowledged being arrested twice in the past for incidents involving his vet practice. The first involved the disposal of a German Shepherd in a garbage can when he worked in Philadelphia and the second, in the Bronx, came after a Chihuahua bite him and the dog was accidentally knocked to the floor off the exam table. Katz said he was cleared in both instances.
Katz also wrote to members of the Assembly urging them not to vote for another term of leadership by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who okayed a settlement with two Assembly staffers who accused Assemblyman Vito Lopez of sexual harassment. Katz compared Silver to the late Joe Paterno, who was accused of covering up the episodes of child abuse by Jerry Sandusky.
UPDATE: Katz just released a statement, calling the Thursday arrest "an unfortunate incident.'' [He then, strangely, said it won't stop his push for things like mandate relief.]
"I am confident that once the facts are presented that this will quickly be put to rest,'' Katz said. He did not elaborate.