Saturday, March 4, 2017

The Saga of a Law

"Laws are like sausages. It is better not to see them being made." There are several variations of this sentiment, and at least as many people believed to have said it. One source attributes this variation to Mark Twain: "Those that respect the law and love sausage should watch neither being made." And so it has been with the law creating the City of Hudson's lodging tax. It's not that anything inappropriate happened; it's just that it took such an excruciatingly long time.

The notion that a lodging tax could be a painless source of new revenue for the City of Hudson originated with Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward), who suggested it back in September 2014. In January 2015, Friedman, who then chaired the Legal Committee, and Nick Haddad, then First Ward alderman and chair of the Finance Committee, issued a press release introducing the idea of a lodging tax as a means to broaden the tax base and bring some relief to property owners. 

For the next several months, the law to create a lodging tax in Hudson was crafted by Friedman and the Legal Committee, and in August 2015, the law was laid on the aldermen's desks. Imposing a new tax requires enabling legislation from the state legislature, and in September 2015, a resolution was passed to send the proposed law to Albany. But getting enabling legislation passed required more than a resolution. It needed the support of our local representatives in the Assembly and the State Senate, who must sponsor the bill and shepherd it through the process. In February 2016, it was discovered that the matter had been presented neither to Assemblymember Didi Barrett nor to Senator Kathy Marchione, and their support had not been solicited.

That oversight was soon corrected, and with the support of Barrett and Marchione finally engaged, the enabling legislation for our lodging tax was approved by the Assembly and the State Senate on June 17, 2016, in the final hours of the legislative session. What remained was for Governor Andrew Cuomo to sign the bill, which he did at the last possible moment on November 28, 2016. The lodging tax was good to go . . . but was it?

At the first informal Common Council meeting for 2017, Alderman Rick Rector (First Ward) asked about the lodging tax and was told by Heather Campbell, the city treasurer, that there was no system in place to track and collect the tax and what was needed would have to be far more sophisticated than anything the City now has in place. Last month, on February 21, the Council passed a resolution approving the purchase of a software system to collect the lodging tax, but the law creating the lodging tax has not yet been enacted. It is still lying on the aldermen's desks.

Voting to enact the local law that would create the lodging tax was on the agenda for the February meeting of the Common Council, but when it came time to vote, Alderman Michael O'Hara (First Ward), who chairs the Legal Committee, moved to table the vote. The law before them was a revised version of the original law, but he and his committee, assisted by Steve Dunn, were working on a new version of the law, which wasn't ready yet. This situation provoked some mild consternation from Rector at the Common Council meeting and something much stronger than consternation from Friedman, the author of the original law, at the Arts, Entertainment & Tourism Committee meeting this past Wednesday night. 

On Thursday, March 2, at a special meeting of the Legal Committee, the rewritten law was reviewed, discussed, and pronounced good. With a few minor changes, which could easily be done in time, the law would be ready to be presented to the Council at its next meeting on Monday, March 13. According to Andy Howard, counsel to the Council, even though the original version of the law has been sitting on the aldermen's desks (figuratively speaking) since August 2015--more than a year and a half--this new version will have to "ripen" on the aldermen's desks for ten days before it can be voted on, which means, unless a special meeting is called to enact the law, it cannot be voted on until April 2017--two years and seven months from idea to actuality.


  1. did anyone in hudson ever think about another novel way to raise taxes ? how about selling the 100 lots held by HDC etc to put back on the open market so that the tax base returns to its former size ??

    people actually want to buy land and build on it. and pay taxes.

    its time to apply for the HUD exemption so that we no longer are holding land parcels off the taxes rolls.

    only 60 % of the lots are now paying taxes. its time to change the old policies -- just like removing the weighted vote.

    1. Even better: let's dissolve the HDC while we're at it.

    2. exactly its like the berlin wall its time has past and its has to come down.

      hudson has to face up to solid good financial choices rather than living in the past.

    3. The HDC is Hudson's own "Deep State."

    4. HDC does not own a 100 properties. Check the rolls here:

  2. outside of the law and beyond the voters. an inside deal -- "the deep state".

  3. The Hudson River Line now blocks more commerce than it brings. The best way to make Hudson's (entire) waterfront great again, is to move the tracks inland.