January 15, 2013
By Neal Tepel, Laborpress Publisher
Gov. Andrew Cuomo's State of the State message outlines an ambitious legislative agenda for 2013 that includes raising the minimum wage, tougher gun control laws, expansion of casinos upstate, decriminalizing less than 15 grams of marijuana, and improving educational services. In his lengthy 1 hour and 17 minute speech, Gov. Cuomo also focused on the need to rebuild post-Sandy and a women's equality plan.
He began his January 9, 2013 State of the State address by stating that "New York is on its way, coming back stronger than ever before, rising to meet some of the biggest challenges in our history, remaining as a progressive beacon of light to the rest of the nation, and standing out as a model of effective government."
His casino plan that places casinos out of New York City cleverly addresses the need for economic development upstate and objections from key downstate political and religious leaders. The proposal seems to have the support of
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and most legislators. "We propose a casino plan to boost upstate development," Cuomo said. "I believe casinos in upstate New York could be a great magnet to bring the New York City traffic up. They now go to New Jersey, they go to Connecticut – why don't we bring them to upstate New York?"
The Governor outlined a seven-point gun control plan that included enacting the "toughest assault weapon ban in the nation". Other points include closing the private sale loophole by requiring federal background checks, banning high-capacity magazines, enacting tougher penalties for illegal gun use, keeping guns from people who are mentally ill, banning direct internet sales of ammunition in New York, creating a state criminal background check system on all ammunition purchases. "New York State led the way on guns once before. It was the Sullivan's law of 1911, which was the first-in-the-nation gun control law. A model law," said Cuomo. "It's simple. Nobody hunts with an assault rifle," continued Cuomo. "Nobody needs 10 bullets to kill a deer. End the madness now."
His plan for the expansion and upgrading of the state's public schools and colleges has a number of worthy initiatives. NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi said proposals to expand pre-kindergarten programs, to establish more community schools with a full range of services for students in low wealth districts and to explore increasing learning time for students, have the potential to accelerate learning. "We appreciate the governor's recognition that schools are more than an academic setting and that expanded access to pre-kindergarten programs offers valuable educational opportunities to our neediest students," said Iannuzzi.
NYSUT Executive Vice President Andrew Pallotta said, "Using SUNY and CUNY as incubators for economic growth and investing in community colleges' ability to train graduates for jobs are good steps toward a stronger education system and statewide job creation. I look forward to seeing the funding behind the proposals."
As I watched the address, the Governor seemed to feel comfortable with himself and the audience. There was a friendlier and warmer atmosphere than at previous State of the State presentations. I would characterize last year's address as confrontational and hostile at times. It also appeared that some items were not a surprise to Senate and Assembly leadership as if some discussions were taking place prior to the presentation. Andrew Cuomo's tough style may not be changing but he is becoming a more effective and smarter leader.