By Mayor Mary Marvin
December 31, 2018
As the New Year arrives so does our newly constituted New York State Legislature.
January 1, 2019 featured a fully Democrat controlled Legislature for the first time in decades including the entirety of Governor Cuomo’s tenure.
As a direct consequence, the Governor broke with tradition and laid out his legislature agenda in a wide ranging speech before the New York City Bar Association in late December instead of waiting until the January State of the State address. The motivation was to enable the Legislature to commence action on his top priorities immediately upon convening with the goal of passing much of his agenda in the first hundred days.
The following are the legislative goals you can expect to be discussed in the coming weeks and months:
Take action to codify the health insurance marketplace that the State created under the Affordable Care Act and maintain the ACA’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions should they be overturned on the federal or judicial level. He also reiterated his desire for the Legislature to pass the Reproductive Health Act and the Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act within the first 30 days of the session.
Maintain the millionaire’s tax (though not increase it) and make permanent the 2% property tax cap on local municipalities and continue to advocate for the repeal of the SALT tax with our neighboring states of New Jersey and Connecticut.
Pass the Equal Rights Amendment to add sex as a protected class. (Nearly a century after it was proposed, New York State never passed the amendment to add it to our State constitution.) In addition, the Governor would approve the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act which provides protections for those who are transgender and add gender identity to the State’s hate crime and human rights laws. He also vowed to put a legal end to conversion therapy in New York.
The Governor’s goals are directed at three specific measures: ban bump stocks, expand the wait period from three days to ten days for gun seekers who have been flagged by the national background check database and institute a Red Flag Bill allowing family members or school officials to petition a judge to block ownership if the person is deemed to be a danger to themselves or others.
Governor Cuomo advocates a state level DREAM Act which would allow those in the country without documentation to qualify for New York State college tuition assistance.
Legalization of Marijuana
For much of his first two terms the Governor was opposed to allowing marijuana for recreational use calling it a gateway drug as recently as last year. In a major policy change, he is now calling for legalization emulating our neighbors in Massachusetts, Vermont and Canada.
The Governor set a new goal for the electric sector to reach 100% renewable by 2040. He also advocated for bills to better regulate contaminants in drinking and groundwater.
The Governor is calling for a funding model for the state’s schools using different formulas than the State Education Department and major education stakeholders have done in the past, with the goal of poorer schools receiving a larger distribution on the local level.
Congestion Pricing in NYC
Vehicle traffic that enters Manhattan at certain times and in certain zones would receive an additional toll, with much of the revenue directed toward improving the NYC subway system.
Child Victims Act
For years, victims have pushed a measure that would extend the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse crimes and open up a one-year window to revive previously timed-out claims.
This year, Cuomo expressed optimism and support that the Child Victims Act would become law.
Ending Cash Bail
The Governor’s position is that by requiring defendants to put up money or bond to get out of jail while awaiting trial discriminates against lower income defendants. To remedy this, he would give judge’s more authority to make their determinations based on the risk to society of release, rather than a monetary calculation.
The Governor is in favor of automatic voter registration, early and mail in voting and aligning the state and federal primaries which are currently held on different days.
In a major departure, he even floated the idea of making Election Day a state holiday. He also went further than in his past campaign finance proposals and called for a blanket ban on campaign contributions from corporations.
With few exceptions, this wish list has been reiterated prior, but given the change of power in the State Senate, the initiatives have become much more feasible.