New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivers his third State of the State address at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center in Albany. (Jan. 9, 2013) | Credit: MorichesDaily
Albany, N.Y. (MorichesDaily) — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo used his third State of the State address to pitch ideas, proposals and projects for everything from gun control to legalizing marijuana.
In the 75-minute address on Wednesday, Cuomo outlined a laundry list of classic liberal initiatives, including raising the minimum wage, decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana and expanding women’s reproductive rights.
The governor said he would eliminate the Long Island Power Authority as part of measures to better protect New York City and Long Island and would “harden” the energy network that failed for millions of New Yorkers for as many as 21 days with the Oct. 29 superstorm. The governor said the Long Island Power Authority failed during the storm.
One of the more controversial proposals Cuomo called for was closing loopholes on a state ban on assault weapons and ammunition magazines that carry more than 10 bullets as part of a wide-ranging gun control.
“Guns have both a noble and a tragic tradition in America and in New York state,” Cuomo stated in remarks provided before his speech. “They are a sign of our nation’s fiercely defended independence and self-reliance … (but) in the wrong hands, guns are also weapons of untold destruction and heartbreak.
“The tragic events of just the last few weeks in Newtown, Conn., and West Webster, N.Y., have indelibly taught us guns can cut down small children, firefighters and policemen in a moment.”
The liberal Governor went on to say, “It’s simple: No one hunts with an assault rifle. No one needs 10 bullets to kill a deer! And too many innocent people have died already. End the madness now!”
Legislators are prepared to be called into session by Cuomo as early as Thursday if a deal on gun control is struck, though a Cuomo spokesman said he knows of no plan to call legislators into session that day.
Cuomo also spent considerable time talking about importance of rebuilding Long Island and New York City in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy, offering buyouts for some homeowners who can’t rebuild and privatize the Long Island Power Authority.
The governor said the $9 billion in Sandy aid approved by Congress is “too little and too late.”
Cuomo called it “clearly the most ambitious agenda I have outlined” in his three State of the State addresses.
Cuomo said in his speech that he would push hard to raise the state minimum wage, from its current $7.25 level up to $8.75.
The governor also proposed expanding gambling in New York and called for three casinos upstate.
He didn’t mention Long Island’s Shinnecock Indian Nation, which has tried to open a casino of its own.
The governor proposed decriminalizing the possession of 15 grams of marijuana in public view to a civil violation. Currently only possession of marijuana in private is decriminalized, possession in public view is still a Class B misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $250 with a maximum sentence of 90 days.
“These arrests stigmatize, they criminalize, they create a permanent record. It’s not fair, it’s not right, it must end and it must end now,” Governor Cuomo stated.
Last year, the Governor declared his support for a similar proposal, but was unable to gather significant support in the state legislature by the end of the year.
Other proposals unveiled by Cuomo include a 10-pack of measures focused on women’s issues, including state bills requiring women to be paid the same as men when performing equal work, putting abortion rights into law and enacting tougher penalties for sexual harassment in the workplace.
When it comes to education, some topics Cuomo discussed were longer school days and years, more pre-kindergarten and funding based on performance and paying high-performing “master teachers” $15,000 extra a year for four years to teach other teachers.
Many of the proposals set forth by Cuomo will likely face strong resistance from republicans in the state Senate, who will share control of the chamber with the breakaway Independent Democratic Conference this year.