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Paterson Signs Anti-Texting Law, Vetoes War of 1812 Bill

First Posted: 09/28/09 06:12 AM ET Updated: 05/25/11 02:55 PM ET

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- It's now illegal to text, tweet or surf while driving in New York.

Gov. David Paterson announced Thursday that he signed the anti-texting law among many, including one to ban the use of the ethnic term "Oriental" in state documents.

The governor also vetoed 13 bills that he said would have mandated state spending that was "not absolutely necessary."

The ban on texting while driving comes with fines up to $150 for using handheld devices or laptops to send text messages or read, view or transmit images or data while a vehicle is moving. Fines could be imposed only as a secondary offense after a driver is pulled over for appearing to break another law. It's already illegal in the state to talk on a cell phone while driving.

The new measures include Amanda's Law, which requires all homes to be outfitted with carbon monoxide detectors. The previous law applied only to homes built or sold after July 30, 2002.

The bill is named for Amanda Hansen, a 16-year-old from West Seneca who died in January of carbon monoxide poisoning from a defective boiler while at a sleep-over at her friend's house.

The detectors can be found in home improvement hardware stores for under $100. Under the law, contractors who replace a hot water tank or furnace would have to install the detectors, too.

Paterson also said the state can't afford the measures he vetoed. He noted the Legislature must tackle a $2.1 billion deficit a September session and also figure out how to remedy a projected $4.6 billion deficit for the 2010-11 fiscal year.

"We will not reach that destination by undertaking expenditures that are not absolutely necessary," Paterson stated in vetoing a bill that would create a 24-member commission to celebrate a War of 1812 victory. He said existing boards as well as state and local agencies should instead work together to avoid the estimated $2 million cost of the commission.

Paterson's vetoes included:

--Refusing to allow several school districts to spread out repayment of state aid without interest over a three- to six-year period. The debt totals millions of dollars, most of which was the fault of the districts for failing to appropriately apply for the aid or failure to adhere to competitive bidding requirements. Paterson said the schools also failed to prove hardship.

--Refusing to advance $10 million in aid to Rochester a year early. Paterson vetoed a similar bill for Syracuse weeks ago. He said the state might not even have enough cash on hand to pay the aid in an earlier fiscal quarter.

--Refusing to create a Division of Minority Mental Health in the state Office of Mental Health to focus on the special needs of minorities and ensure that programs are "culturally and linguistically appropriate." Paterson said the division would cost $2 million over two years to start and its goals are already addressed.

--Refused to grant a judge pension credits for the four months he left the bench to temporarily serve as a United Nations judge in Kosovo more than five years ago. The bill would have meant $18,700 more for Brooklyn State Supreme Court Justice Gustin Reichbach. Paterson said such consideration is given only for military service and would result in more claims against the pension system.

Paterson signed other several bills into law, including measures to:

--Add "domestic partner" in a same-sex relationship to the list of people who may consent to organ and tissue donations.

--Require utilities, energy companies, municipalities, telephone companies and cable TV companies to provide large-print versions of bills on request.

--Require state agencies, departments and authorities that let $10 million in contracts a year to create a mentor-protege program between established state contractors and emerging minority- and women-owned businesses seeking state contracts.

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Filed by David Weiner  |