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Lawmakers push back on new license plate, fee

The governor’s office is asking New Yorkers to vote among five options for new license plates.

ALBANY — In New York state government news, Republican lawmakers aren’t happy with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to charge motorists $25 for new license plates.

The Democratic governor recently announced a public vote to pick the plate’s design, as well as plans to impose a $25 replacement fee on motorists with older plates.

Meanwhile, a commission that will set rules for a $100 million public financing program for election campaigns is getting to work, only a few months before its recommendations are due in Albany.

Here’s a look at stories making news:

Plate scrape

Republican lawmakers — and some Democrats — are urging Cuomo’s administration to drop plans for the $25 plate replacement fee, which motorists will pay as part of vehicle registration when their existing plates hit the 10-year mark.

State Senate Minority Leader John Flanagan, R-Long Island, called the fee “the latest example of Albany’s nickel-and-diming of hardworking middle-class taxpayers.” Sen. David Carlucci, D-Rockland County, called it an “unnecessary cash grab.”

The Democratic governor’s administration defends the move, noting that more than 3 million New York plates are at least 10 years old. Officials say aging plates can peel and rust. That can decrease reflectivity and make it harder for police or traffic cameras to read the plates.

The new plates would also be designed to be easier for toll booth cameras to read.

“As the lifespan of the old plates comes to an end and we develop new ones that are as easy to read as possible, I encourage all residents to take part in choosing this piece of our state’s history,” Cuomo said in a statement.

Five designs have been proposed for the new plate. New Yorkers may vote for their favorite online through Sept. 2.

Three feature prominent images of the Statue of Liberty, while a fourth has a smaller Lady Liberty, along with Niagara Falls and the New York City skyline.

A fifth option sports a view of the Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Bridge. That Hudson River span is one of Andrew Cuomo’s proudest accomplishments as governor and is named for his father, the late governor.

Cuomo hasn’t said whether he has a favorite design, but state Republican Chairman Nick Langworthy has a theory.

“I would love to see the Statue of Liberty be on the New York state license plate, but I noticed three Statutes of Liberty options, so I think he’s trying to divide the Statute of Liberty vote so the Mario Cuomo bridge wins,” Langworthy told reporters last week.

Public campaign finance

A task force created to set the rules for a new $100 million public campaign finance system is finally getting to work — just months before it’s required to report back.

The commission met for the first time Wednesday and announced a series of public hearings in coming weeks. The first will be held in Manhattan on Sept. 10.

Known as a small donor matching program, the system will provide $100 million in public financing to candidates who get small private donations.

The idea is to reduce the power of deep-pocketed donors and corporations whose contributions are able to dwarf those of individual voters.

The task force has until December to announce the rules, which will become law unless lawmakers hold a rare end-of-year special session to reject them.

“The Public Campaign Finance Commission has just 100 days left to fulfill their important mandate to give New Yorkers a bigger voice in our democracy and end the era of big money in Albany,” said Laura Friedenbach, deputy campaign manager for the Fair Elections for New York campaign, a leading advocate for public financing.