Thursday, October 27, 2016

New York’s Highest Court Rejects Challenge To Schuyler County’s Local Hotel Tax

ALBANY—The New York State Court of Appeals has denied a motion for leave to appeal an order upholding Schuyler County’s local hotel tax on vacation rentals and other tourist facilities.

The court issued the order on Thursday (October 27). It rejected the appeal filed by Thomas Schneider, owner of “Seneca Lake Vacation Rentals” and let stand a June holding from the Supreme Court, Appellate Division, that the Schuyler County Treasurer properly applied the four percent local tax to these properties.

In 2014, the Schuyler County Treasurer found that Schneider owed $6,100.00 in back taxes under the "Schuyler County Hotel or Motel Room Occupancy Tax Law.” Under that local law, Schuyler County imposes a four percent (4%) local tax upon the rent for every occupancy of a room or rooms in a hotel, motel, bed and breakfast or tourist facility having one or more rooms in the county. The purpose of the tax is to promote local tourism and to enhance the local economy.

Schneider, a resident of New Jersey, had argued that his properties were exempt from the tax as “bungalows” under regulations of the State Commissioner of Taxation and Finance. He sued in state court to overturn the treasurer’s findings, but his lawsuit was dismissed. He then filed an appeal to the Third Judicial Department, Supreme Court, Appellate Division.

In the previous appeal, Schneider’s attorneys, Schlather, Stumbar, Parks & Salk argued that the properties could not be taxed because they are furnished and do not provide housekeeping, food or other common hotel services.

Representing the County Treasurer, Schuyler County Attorney Steven Getman argued on appeal that the state exemption was specifically limited to state administered taxes, not locally administered hotel or room taxes. The local tax, Getman said, more broadly defined hotels and motels to include “bed and breakfasts” and “tourist’ facilities,” such as bungalows.

In its decision, the Appellate Division ruled that the State Commissioner's interpretation does not apply to the locally administered tax. The court noted that other local taxes, including the City of New York’s, did not exempt bungalows and that the definition of "hotel" in the enabling statute was expansive enough to include bungalows such as the properties owned by Schneider. Therefore, the Appellate Division stated, the prior decision upholding the treasurer should be affirmed.

In addition, the Appellate Division rejected Schneider’s argument that the retroactive imposition of the tax against his property was unjust. Schneider had been operating his vacation rental business for approximately five years, but had never filed a tax return with the county treasurer’s office, due to his theory that the “bungalow exception” excused his doing so.

In July 2016, after the Appellate Division ruled against him, Schneider’s attorneys moved the Court of Appeals for leave to appeal to that court. The county attorney opposed.

On Thursday, the Court of Appeals issued an order denying Schneider’s request to appeal. It also imposed $100.00 costs.

The Court of Appeals decision means that the prior decisions upholding the county’s tax become final and binding.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

NY Court website offers information on criminal court cases

The New York State Office of Court Administration has added criminal case content to its CourtHelp website. The site provides basic information for defendants facing criminal charges, victims of crime, or people who have completed their criminal sentence, including:
Criminal Case Basics: Charged with a violation, misdemeanor or felony? Learn about the basic steps in New York State criminal cases from arraignment to sentencing. This section is for defendants with active criminal cases.

Crime Victims: If you are the victim of a crime, read about your rights in the court case, like having a say about what happens to the defendant and recovering losses.

Collateral Consequences: Find out about the different consequences of a criminal conviction beyond sentencing and the additional impact the conviction may have on your housing, education, job, immigration status and more.

Sentencing: If you are found guilty or plead guilty, you will be sentenced. There are many different types of punishment that the Judge can choose. Read about the sentencing process and common punishments, like restitution, fines and Ignition Interlock Devices.

Getting Rights Back: Read about ways to get your rights back with a Certificate of Relief from Disabilities and a Certificate of Good Conduct.

Criminal Records: Find out how to get your criminal record. Learn about sealing court records.

Note: The website gives legal information, not legal advice. Persons seeking legal advice should consult with a competent attorney of their own choosing.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Judicial Politics and the Presidential Election

Judicial Politics and the Presidential Election Topic of Oct. 25 Lecture at Keuka College:
Keuka College will host a presentation by Dr. Thomas M. Keck, the Michael O. Sawyer Chair of Constitutional Law and Politics and professor of political science at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs professor of political science at Syracuse University, Tuesday, Oct. 25.

Dr. Keck will discuss “From the White House to the Supreme Court: Judicial Politics and the Presidential Election” from 1- 2:25 p.m. in Hegeman Hall 109. It is free and open to the public.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Seneca County to Hold Drug Take Back Day

Ithaca Times:
On Saturday, October 22nd, 2016, the Seneca County Sheriff’s Office, partnering with the DEA, will conduct another drug take back day at two Seneca County locations. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., deputies will collect potentially dangerous, expired, unused and unwanted prescription drugs for destruction.

This service is free and anonymous with no questions asked and no paperwork to complete. Citizens may drop off these drugs at the Seneca County Law Enforcement Center, 6150, Route 96, Romulus, N.Y. or at the Sheriff’s sub-station at 44 West William Street, Waterloo, N.Y. Deputies will be on hand to answer any questions or concerns.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

N.Y. State Bar launches

The New York State Bar Association will soon be participating in the ABA Free Legal Answers project.

This project will provide an online platform for New York attorneys to provide limited scope legal advice to low income New Yorkers.

All low income persons who meet the project’s eligibility standards may utilize this service in New York.

For more on this resource, click here.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Beware of Scammers Posing as National Grid

Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York has issued a warning about a utility scam:
National Grid reports that scammers are targeting its customers, demanding payment over the phone and telling people that they will shut off service if they do not comply.

Because utility companies do sometimes contact their customers by phone, it can be difficult to tell a scammer from a real employee. BBB offers the following tips: Prepaid debit cards are a red flag. If a caller specifically asks you to pay by prepaid debit card or wire transfer, this is a huge warning sign. Your utility company will accept a check or credit card and will usually direct you to one of their payment locations.

The BBB cautions the people should never give their credit card, debit card, Social Security, ATM, checking or savings account numbers to anyone who comes to your home, calls or sends an email requesting information.

More here.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Domestic Violence Awareness Month: New York State “Know Your Rights” brochure

New York State has released an updated “Victims of Domestic Violence: Know Your Rights!” brochure to mark the 29th annual Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

The brochure describes key legal protections and services available to victims of domestic violence, particularly in the areas of housing and employment, under New York law and the 1994 federal Violence Against Women Act.

The brochure also includes information about new protections stemming from New York State’s recently-enacted Women’s Equality Agenda. This new legislation protects victims of domestic violence from discrimination when they attempt to rent or lease housing, and provides them with an affirmative defense in eviction proceedings and a private right of action. It also creates a pilot program to allow domestic violence victims to seek temporary orders of protection electronically rather than having to appear in person.

October was first proclaimed National Domestic Violence Awareness month in 1989 by President George H.W. Bush.

New York's updated pamphlet is available here.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Seneca County Driver Safety Class - October 2016

The National Safety Council and the Seneca County Chamber of Commerce are offering a six (6) hour New York State Defensive Driving Course. The Safety Council or the Chamber reserve the right to cancel any class. Take up to 4 points off of your license every 18 months and reduce your insurance every 3 years.

The dates are October 12, 2016 - October 13, 2016 (both classes must be attended).

For more information, click here.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Register to vote in New York by October 14

Are you registered to vote? Are your family members? Any citizen who is 18 by November 8, 2016 can vote.

Checking registration is easy: Use this link.

Not registered? Use this link to register.

The last day to register to vote in NY for the upcoming presidential election is October 14th.

Please register and vote.