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ALBANY -- State Supreme Court Justice Thomas Feinman reinstated an increase in the retail tobacco dealer registration fees enacted by Gov. David Paterson and the legislature last year.
Under the law, convenience store operators who previously paid $100 annually now face registration fees of $1,000 to $5,000 per location per year, based on the store's annual gross sales of all products -- a 900-percent to 4,900-percent hike, according to the New York Association of Convenience Stores (NYACS).
NYACS and four other retail trade associations challenged the constitutionality of the fee hike in a lawsuit, in which Judge Feinman issued a temporary restraining order last September, pending his ruling on a motion for permanent injunction, NYACS stated. Late last week, Feinman declared the trade groups lacked standing to bring the suit in the first place.
"There has been no showing of injury in fact to one of the plaintiff associations' member, to any one single retail dealer, or that any one of its members would be forced to close down their business," Judge Feinman was quoted as stating by NYACS.
In the case, NYACS and the associations filed an affidavit from a c-store chain stating its 2009 tobacco registration fees for 161 locations totaled $16,100, and would cost $422,000 under the new fee schedule, jeopardizing the "fiscal viability" of many of its locations.
NYACS and its allies are working to obtain a "stay" pending appeal. The association claimed the jump in fees were designed by public health advocates to force 40 percent of New York's tobacco retailers to drop the category.
"The judge basically said we lack standing unless there are dead bodies on the floor," NYACS President James Calvin said in a statement, adding he vows to do everything possible to block the fee increase.