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Cuomo signs traffic bureau, speed-limit laws

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. (March 27, 2012)

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. (March 27, 2012) Credit: AP

ALBANY -- Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed new law Friday that allows Suffolk County to establish a "traffic violations bureau" that will let it -- rather than state government -- keep most of the proceeds from locally issued traffic tickets.

The governor also approved measures to enact speed limits as low as 15 mph in neighborhoods close to popular beaches in Lido Beach and Long Beach, and to allow Suffolk County to regulate taxis and limousines in order to prearrange pickups and drop-offs in New York City.

The traffic violations bureau is a big victory for County Executive Steve Bellone. Officials said the action could generate $11 million annually for Suffolk.

"The creation of this new entity will reduce the burden on our courts and eliminate the time law enforcement personnel currently lose sitting in court waiting for cases to be heard," Sen. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) said in a statement. "It will also keep Suffolk County dollars here in the county instead of going to Albany to get redistributed around the state."

Currently, fines generated in Babylon, Huntington, Islip, Smithtown and Brookhaven are split between the state and county. The new law allows the county to keep the fines -- although the "state surcharge" part of the ticket will still go to the state.

The governor also signed three solar energy bills intended to make installing solar panels more affordable for homeowners and businesses.

One of the measures should boost a growing business model in which a private company installs the panels on a house and the owner either leases the panels or pays a fixed-rate for the electricity generated.

The new law allows a private company to use a $5,000 tax credit that previously was only available to the homeowner who bought the equipment. The upfront costs -- often $40,000 before federal and state tax credits -- have been prohibitive for many homeowners, said Francis Murray Jr., president and chief executive of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

Under this model, "the company will come and they will finance the project for you and put up the entire $16,000 upfront, so there's no capital outlay by you and you end up as a homeowner paying back that cost through your lease," he said.

Another bill signed into law will exempt commercial property owners from state sales taxes for solar installations and give municipalities the option of exempting those taxes beginning next year. A third bill extends a tax break for solar power for New York City property owners.

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