By Tom Precious
ALBANY – It’s been years of making a pitch, but Buffalo tonight has moved a major step forward in its bid to take over the state's work of adjudicating traffic violations that occur within city limits.
A measure to let the city run its own traffic adjudication system, approved by the state Senate Wednesday, sailed through the Assembly tonight without any debate.
The state has been unwilling for years to give up the adjudication responsibilities – and the money it brings.
But an amendment to the long-stalled bill called for the city to take over the work – and keep the money – so long as the move does not cost the state any lost funds in its current fiscal year that ends next March 31.
For motorists, there could be an extra benefit: plea bargaining. The legislation notes that the state handles traffic violations for the city without plea bargaining opportunities.
The new bill, which still needs approval from Gov. Andrew Cuomo to become law, changes that legal maneuvering with the switch-over to a city-controlled traffic adjudication system. The bill will not take effect until the city’s 2014-15 fiscal year, and it is already counting on $3.2 million from adjudicating its own tickets.
The bill's sponsors, Buffalo's Sen. Mark Grisanti, a Republican, and Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes, a Democrat, argued in a bill memo that the current system preventing plea bargaining is unfair because that option is afforded motorists getting tickets in all other cities, towns and villages in Western New York.
They say violators could be given the option of attending a traffic safety course and, as a result, not receive any additional points on their license. In turn, that could help keep insurance rates down, they argue.
The bill dates back to at least 2007, according to a legislative memo, and has been requested year after year by Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown.