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Lawsuit challenges NY casino plan, Cuomo's changes

Michael Gormley, Associated Press

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- A man filed a lawsuit Thursday against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders to try to void expansion of casino gambling approved in June.

A Cuomo spokesman downplayed the lawsuit, saying the governor's actions are routinely upheld in court.

Robert Schulz, of Washington County, says the bill voted into law on the last day of the legislative session contained dozens of substantive, last-minute changes hidden from public view.

Cuomo says they were only technical changes. He issued a message of necessity that suspended the three days' public review required by the constitution.

Schulz argues Cuomo and legislative leaders negotiated changes involving the payouts and locations of facilities. Schulz also says an anti-corruption provision that would have limited campaign contributions was dropped.

Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi disputed that, saying it was dropped earlier in closed-door negotiations with legislative leaders.

"This administration, as New York Public Interest Research Group recently pointed out, has used far fewer messages than any of its immediate predecessors," Azzopardi said. "It has done so in a manner that has routinely been upheld by the courts."

Schulz's We The People organization also is suing on similar grounds for an economic development program Cuomo, a Democrat, proposed and the Legislature adopted in June. The program offers no taxes for 10 years for mostly high-technology companies and their employees for moving into New York when they align with colleges and their academic programs.

Messages of necessity have long been controversial in Albany and used by every recent governor. They are supposed to be only for emergencies, such as to address natural disasters, but the constitution doesn't specify what constitutes an emergency. Governors have most often used messages of necessity to quickly pass bills negotiated in closed-door sessions with leaders before lobbyists could persuade lawmakers to oppose the bills.

But messages of necessity have long been criticized by good-government groups for keeping details of policy and spending from the public before they are voted into law.

Schulz, who has sued several New York governors on constitutional grounds including over Cuomo's legalization of gay marriage, winning a few cases, said the constitution "does not defend itself."

"As a matter of course, our elected officials are violating its provisions and mandates right before our view, and we need to stop what is a head-long rush into more debt, dependency and decay," he said.