Governor Andrew Cuomo delivered his 2013 State of the State Address Wednesday, saying the state will focus in the coming months on economic growth, education reform, rebuilding New York's infrastructure in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and a number of additional reforms he called his "progressive agenda."
In his address, Cuomo called for workers' compensation reform, as well as unemployment insurance for businesses and workers, saying such reform would save businesses $1.3 billion.
He proposed to raise the minimum wage to $8.75 an hour from $7.25 an hour. The current wage is below 19 other states and does not reflect the cost of living in New York State, Cuomo said.
But other officials were not satisfied with the slight raise in the minimum wage.
City Comptroller John Liu proposed a minimum wage in New York City of $11.50 an hour, to be phased in over five years. "While we wholeheartedly support the Governor’s statewide proposal, the fact remains that a dollar goes much further in Buffalo than Brooklyn," Liu said.
The Governor announced extensive education reform, including extending the school day and/or year by at least 25 percent and investing in high-quality, full-day pre-kindergarten, beginning with New York's highest-needs students. He also proposed increasing admission standards for entry into educator preparation programs, and implementing a “bar exam” that teachers must pass in order to receive certification.
The Governor discussed his "progressive agenda," including a multitude of law enforcement-centric reforms and proposals.
He announced plans to bring "parity to the law" and decriminalize public view with 15 grams or less of marijuana. Under current law, “open view” possession of 25 grams or less of marijuana is a misdemeanor, while possession of the same amount of marijuana in the home is a violation, or a non-criminal offense punishable by a fine.
The Governor also proposed requiring that interrogations of persons arrested for serious offenses such as homicide, kidnapping and certain sex offenses be recorded on video.
While Cuomo noted that the controversial NYPD stop-and-frisk procedure has a significantly negative affect on the relationship between communities and law enforcement, he said that it also plays an important role in the prevention of crime, and did not address the subject any further in his outline.
He said the state must pass the "toughest assault weapons ban in the country," which would include the elimination of large capacity magazines, requiring that any sale in New York State between private parties be subject to the same background checks required of gun show transactions, and enhancing penalties for those who illegally buy guns, for those who use guns on school property, and for those who engage in violent and serious drug-related gang activity.
Currently, licenses for handguns are issued by the county in which the gun owner lives. Cuomo announced that he will propose a single standard across the state to ensure that appropriate checks can be run to bar convicted felons and other prohibited people from possessing firearms.
As part of his progressive agenda, Cuomo also proposed a 10-point plan to achieve equality for women that would implement certain reforms, including the enactment of the Reproductive Health Act; achieve pay equity; stop sexual harassment in the workplace; and protect victims of domestive violence by strengthening order-of-protection laws.
Separately, the Governor proposed the House NY program, consisting of $1 billion to produce or preserve over 14,000 units of affordable housing over the next five years.
Cuomo also called for a strengthening New York's subway system, and suggested creating flood-proof subways and bus depots with vertical roll-down doors, vent closures, inflatable bladders, and upsized fixed pumps with back-up power sources.
He also called for government reform, including the rejiggering of the campaign finance system and making ballots more readable.
Cuomo also outlined the transfer of technology from the academic to commercial sector, proposing steps to accelerate the "commercialization of good ideas and the creation of new businesses to take them to market" through insentives to keep start-ups in New York State.
Other reforms, proposals and announcements outlined in Cuomo's address included: staying ahead of the game on dangerous designer synthetic drugs; the state's cyber security initiative; lowering the regional greenhouse gas emissions cap; increasing alternative local renewable power sources; and providing assistance to property owners to mitigate or sell properties in vulnerable areas.
To read more of the Governor's proposed initiatives as part of his State of the State message visit www.NYGetInvolved.com.