New York lawmakers are expected to return to Albany this week for the start of the new legislative session and the second year of near-total Democratic control of the state government.
In last year’s session, the Democrats, who wrenched control of the state Senate from the Republicans in the 2018 midterm elections, passed a tsunami of bills so desired by the Liberals. This year, for instance , they have to tackle complicated issues that have yet to be voted on, including GPA, euthanasia, health insurance and the legalization of recreational cannabis.
Tax revenue dispute
Attempts to legalize recreational cannabis failed in New York last year. But Governor Andrew Cuomo said legalization is again a top priority this year.
The major sticking point was ‘allocating state revenues from cannabis production and sales. And there are still hesitations among several Democrats in the Senate.
I think people are starting to agree, but there are still issues to be addressed,” said Andrea Stewart-Cousins, who leads the Senate majority.
The governor lobbied for the revenues to go to the general state fund, while Democrats want the money to go to more specific purposes.
There is certainly a desire to ensure that the revenue generated is used not only for the state but also for the communities of color” that have been affected by the cannabis laws, Stewart-Cousins said.
In fact , Cuomo wants New York, Connecticut, and other neighboring states to work together on recreational cannabis policies. However , several Democratic governors in the Northeast who support legalization have had their proposals blocked by more hesitant legislators.
A Very Difficult Fiscal Year
A looming $6 billion deficit fuelled by soaring Medicaid costs and the potential political fallout from the end of cash bail for New Yorkers accused of non-violent crimes should also be a focus for legislators this year. Labor groups also hope that legislators will pass laws to protect workers in the collaborative economy.
Governor Andrew Cuomo kicked off his year in his annual State of the State address on Wednesday.
We’re going into January in a hurry. Said Senator Gustavo Rivera, the Democrat who heads the Senate Health Committee. So , we’re going to do it in a very, very difficult fiscal year.
Moreover , republicans, facing a difficult election year, intend to criticize the rollout of new bail reforms and oppose tax hikes.
Cuomo has announced elements of its 2020 program in recent weeks.
Initiatives announced so far include proposed restrictions on spray advertising and a ban on single-use plastic take-out containers. The three-term governor, whose administration is preparing a budget proposal, has warned advocacy groups, legislators and state agencies not to expect major spending initiatives.
The legislative session will end on 2 June, ahead of the national primary elections on 25 June.