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Cuomo unveils legislative priorities, which includes legalization of marijuana

Gov. Andrew Cuomo backed a legalization of marijuana for adult use as part of a sweeping criminal justice reform agenda heading into the 2019 legislative session.

Cuomo on Monday at New York City Bar Association outlined his plans for the first three months of the new year and transformed Albany that will be led by an all-Democratic Legislature for the first time in a decade.

In addition to backing the legalization of marijuana, Cuomo wants to make the state’s cap on property taxes permanent, end vacancy decontrol in rent regulations, make Election Day a state holiday, end all corporate contributions to political campaigns, provide protections to local level public workers in unionizing and establish a “Green New Deal” that would make the state carbon neutral by 2040.

At the same time, Cuomo reiterated support for long-standing and long-sought measures for Democrats in New York, such as ending cash bail, strengthening gun laws by extending the waiting period from 3 days to 10 and banning bump stocks.

He wants to regulate so-called “gig” economy jobs, pointing to mandated sick days and codify the state’s health care exchange into state law. And he hinted at plans to provide more funding for poorer school districts, a major bone contention for education activists who have been at odds with the governor for his two terms in office.

He wants to see the passage of a bill that would make it easier for the survivors of childhood sexual abuse to file lawsuits and another that would bolster abortion rights.

Much of the details remain in outline form. It’s not clear whether a legalization of marijuana, for instance, would be coupled with expunging the records of those who have committed low-level drug offenses.

Cuomo framed his proposals as an agenda inspired by Franklin Roosevelt’s first 100 days in office.

“This nation is in crisis,” Cuomo said. “It’s social fabric is tearing and it’s nearing its breaking point.”

He pledged to fight the policies of President Donald Trump’s administration, casting his agenda as a “declaration of independence” from the federal government.

“No one makes a better argument against Trump than Trump,” said Cuomo, who recently dined with the president to discuss funding for the Gateway Tunnel project. “Our burden is to prove the positive. To dispel the skepticism of activist government.”

The speech itself acted an unofficial State of the State, a speech the governor traditionally gives in January. He’s signaled he will not give one this year, but will combine both that address and his budget presentation into one event as he has done in the past.

Cuomo said the state is on the right track, but in a storm of federal policies, like a cap on state and local tax deductions, that are harmful.

“While our ship of state is sailing well, the ocean upon which we sail is tempest tossed,” he said.

The address from the governor was an acknowledgement of the new political realities he faces in Albany: Democrats in control of the both the state Senate and Assembly and with large majorities.

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