STATE OF THE STATE

Cuomo out­lines ini­tia­tives aimed at pre­vent­ing hate crimes, le­gal­iz­ing pot

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Ma­rina Vil­leneuve and Ryan Tarinelli

AL­BANY, N.Y. >> New York Gov. An­drew Cuomo used his an­nual State of the State ad­dress Wednesday to ad­vo­cate for a mix of “prac­ti­cal” pro­gres­sive goals and ur­gent re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, in­clud­ing wag­ing war on hate crimes, spend­ing $3 bil­lion on en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion and le­gal­iz­ing recre­ational mar­i­juana.

The third-term Demo­crat touted past achieve­ments and trum­peted a long list of pol­icy ini­tia­tives, many of which he pre­viewed in a se­ries of an­nounce­ments over the past month. Cuomo also stressed the need for fis­cal re­straint, with the state star­ing at a $6 bil­lion bud­get gap, caused largely by soar­ing Med­i­caid spend­ing.

The agenda Cuomo out­lined in the speech in­cludes plans for ex­pand­ing an­tidis­crim­i­na­tion pro­tec­tions in the state con­sti­tu­tion, an over­haul for New York City’s Penn Sta­tion and a pro­posed ban on foam food con­tain­ers. Cuomo also out­lined an­other ban that would cover mar­ket­ing fla­vored e-cig­a­rettes to chil­dren, ini­tia­tives in­tended to lower the cost of pre­scrip­tion drugs, guar­an­teed paid sick leave time for more New York work­ers and ex­panded uni­ver­sal pre-kinder­garten.

“New York at her best is the pro­gres­sive capi­tol of the na­tion, and we must ful­fill that des­tiny again this year,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo de­liv­ered his ad­dress at the Em­pire State Plaza Con­ven­tion Cen­ter in down­town Al­bany to an au­di­ence of mem­bers of the Leg­is­la­ture and top politi­cians from around the state. The speech kicked off a leg­isla­tive ses­sion run­ning through June 2.

The gov­er­nor’s ad­dress comes af­ter sev­eral episodes of vi­o­lence tar­get­ing Jewish peo­ple, in­clud­ing an at­tack by a man who stormed in­side the home of a Mon­sey rabbi, Chaim Rottenberg, and stabbed five peo­ple at a Hanukkah cel­e­bra­tion.

Rottenberg de­liv­ered a bless­ing be­fore Cuomo’s ad­dress and called for toler

ance.

“I will never for­get the hor­ror of that night,” Rottenberg said. “But I will also never for­get how we con­tinue to cel­e­brate af­ter that day, how we con­tinue to re­joice in the mir­a­cle of Hanukkah. I will never for­get the re­silience on dis­play that night and in the fol­low­ing days, the re­silience of Jewish peo­ple and the re­silience of New York.”

Cuomo is propos­ing a new law tar­geted at do­mes­tic ter­ror­ism and said New York would be the first state in the U.S. to en­act such leg­is­la­tion. The new law would ap­ply to crimes in which at least one per­son died and vic­tims were tar­geted by their race, re­li­gion and gen­der, among other top­ics.

Cuomo called the at­tack “in­tol­er­a­ble” and pledged the state won’t stand for it. “They at­tacked me, and they at­tacked you,” Cuomo said.

“These are the times, my friends, when New York state is called upon to lead to set a course for a trou­bled na­tion search­ing its way through the fog of con­fu­sion,” he said.

In a pol­icy brief­ing book that ac­com­pa­nied his speech, Cuomo said his pro­posal to le­gal­ize mar­i­juana would limit the sale of cannabis prod­ucts to adults over age 21. But he only briefly men­tioned his le­gal­iza­tion pro­posal in his ad­dress Wednesday, to tepid ap­plause.

A sim­i­lar pro­posal to le­gal­ize recre­ational mar­i­juana failed last year among dis­agree­ments over fund­ing and hes­i­ta­tion from subur­ban Democrats. Law­mak­ers in­stead scaled back penal­ties for pos­ses­sion of small amounts of mar­i­juana and cre­ated a process for ex­punge­ment.

Cuomo has de­clared “Mak­ing Progress Hap­pen” as his slo­gan for 2020. But any progress will have to come while the state is grap­pling with a bud­get gap fu­eled by soar­ing Med­i­caid costs. De­bate over how to han­dle the short­fall is ex­pected to color vir­tu­ally ev­ery pol­icy de­bate this year.

Hun­dreds of ac­tivists ral­lied in Al­bany de­mand­ing ac­tion on is­sues in­clud­ing the state’s am­bi­tious cli­mate change goals.

Cuomo called cli­mate change the “tran­scen­dent threat of our times” and pro­posed send­ing vot­ers a $3 bil­lion bond in Novem­ber to fund a flood re­duc­tion and habi­tat restora­tion pro­gram he is call­ing Re­store Mother Na­ture.

“Be­cause no eco­nomic strat­egy, no so­cial jus­tice re­form, no ed­u­ca­tion pol­icy will be worth a damn if we don’t have a planet to live on,” he said.

Cuomo has yet to share many de­tails about his plans to ad­dress soar­ing costs of the Med­i­caid pro­gram, which serves over 6 mil­lion peo­ple.

The gov­er­nor called Wednesday for im­proved ac­count­abil­ity in the Med­i­caid sys­tem, say­ing safe­guards were needed to limit po­ten­tial over­spend­ing on the pro­gram by mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties.

More de­tails of how the ad­min­is­tra­tion plans to ad­dress the fund­ing gap may have to wait for his bud­get pro­posal, ex­pected in midJan­uary.

Cuomo has cau­tioned against over­spend­ing while pledg­ing not to raise taxes. That bud­get-con­scious mes­sage could clash with more left-lean­ing law­mak­ers and ad­vo­cates who want to bal­ance the bud­get with new taxes on the wealthy.

The gov­er­nor’s party has seen big po­lit­i­cal wins in re­cent years, even as some long-time Demo­cratic in­cum­bents have lost to more left-wing chal­lengers. But Cuomo ar­gued Wednesday true pro­gres­sive pol­i­tics must be grounded in “re­al­ity” and cham­pion re­sults over rhetoric.

Repub­li­cans, who have seen their clout di­min­ish in Al­bany, say they will hold down spend­ing and re­sist new taxes.

Repub­li­can lead­ers in­clud­ing state GOP chair­man Nick Lang­wor­thy crit­i­cized the gov­er­nor for failing to ad­dress the bud­get deficit as well as a mount­ing de­bate over bail re­forms en­acted last year. Cuomo and other Democrats have sig­naled they are open to mak­ing changes to the statute.

In his pre­view an­nounce­ments over the past month, Cuomo has re­leased pro­pos­als to ban un­trace­able guns, study high speed rail, al­low liquor sales in movie the­aters, re­quire the use of Amer­i­can-made steel and iron on in­fra­struc­ture projects and ease rules for pros­e­cut­ing sex­ual as­sault in­volv­ing in­tox­i­cated vic­tims, among other ini­tia­tives.

Assem­bly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Demo­crat, said law­mak­ers have their own pri­or­i­ties this year, in­clud­ing work­ing to in­crease school aid, affordable housing, in­fra­struc­ture, lo­cal busi­nesses, ru­ral hos­pi­tals and men­tal health­care.

Copy­right 2020 The As­so­ci­ated Press. All rights re­served. This ma­te­rial may not be pub­lished, broad­cast, rewrit­ten or re­dis­tributed.

KEVIN P. COUGH­LIN/OF­FICE OF GOV­ER­NOR AN­DREW M. CUOMO PHOTO

Gov­er­nor An­drew Cuomo de­liv­ers his 10th State of the State Ad­dress in Al­bany on Wednesday.

DARREN MCGEE/OF­FICE OF GOV­ER­NOR AN­DREW M. CUOMO PHOTO

For­mer “Amer­i­can Idol” fi­nal­ist Madi­son VanDen­burg of Cohoes sings the Na­tional An­them prior to Gov. An­drew Cuomo’s State of the State ad­dress.

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