Tougher gun laws, a minimum wage hike, longer school days and/or years, gender equality, campaign finance reform, and growing Upstate New York’s sluggish economy were just some of several items on Governor Andrew Cuomo’s 2013 State of the State Address Wednesday.
Governor Cuomo says New York must lead the country when it comes to tighter gun laws. He outlined a 7-point plan for such laws which includes a tighter ban on assault weapons, a uniform state licensing plan, and tougher penalties on illegal guns and gang violence.
An emphatic Cuomo called them common sense measures, "No one hunts with an assault rifle. No one needs 10 bullets to kill a deer. And, too many innocent people have died already."
Mayor Bloomberg released a statement in strong support of the Governor’s proposals:
“They will help law enforcement keep guns out of the hands of criminals and other dangerous people and save lives. We strongly support his proposals to close loopholes and strengthen existing laws, and we look forward to working with him and the State Legislature to adopt them.”
Senate Republican Conference Leader Dean Skelos said the state’s GOP agrees with tougher penalties on illegal guns.
“Senate Republicans will consider any common sense public safety measure to prevent tragedies such as the one in Newtown, from happening here,” Senator Skelos said in a video response to the Governor’s speech.
Governor Cuomo made a pledge to raise the state’s minimum wage to $8.75 an hour. Cuomo called the state’s current minimum wage of $7.25 an hour unrealistic.
"It's the right thing to do. It's the fair thing to do. It is long overdue. We should have done it last year. Let’s do it this year,” the Governor shouted over loud applause.
Union leaders and immigration advocates are in strong support of Governor Andrew Cuomo's minimum wage hike, while business leaders have voiced some concerns.
AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento and Make the Road New York released approving statements while The Business Council of New York said the wage hike could “impose new costs and new barriors on business.” But, the Business Council did praise the Governor for announcing new job training programs and changes to worker’s compensation and unemployment insurance.
The minimum wage hike is one of several items in the Governor's so-called "Progressive Agenda." That agenda also includes reforming the NYPD's controversial stop-and-frisk policy, decriminalizing marijuana possession, and a massive, 10-point Women's Equality Act. The Act would address reproductive rights, pay equity, sexual harassment, human trafficking, and domestic violence.
In regards to education, Governor Cuomo said students need to spend more time in the classroom. He said this could be done by one of three ways: lengthening the school day, extending the school year, or a combination of both. He is leaving the decision of whether and how to extend class time to individual school districts. But, as an incentive, Governor Cuomo said Albany would foot 100% of the added costs.
Other items on the education agenda include: an expansion of pre-kindergarten education, performance-based pay for teachers, and the creation of a tough, Bar-like exam for those who want to teach in the state.
Governor Cuomo said New York would also lead the nation in campaign finance reform.
He called for the creation of the country’s most aggressive disclosure law for both political campaigns and lobbyists. Under the initiative, political or lobbying contributions of more than $500 must be disclosed within 48 hours. Current law requires disclosure every six months to a year or, in some cases, never. This includes contributions to a PAC, lobbying 501(c)(3), other 501(c) organization, political committee, or political party.
Other government reform agendas include a public campaign finance system comparable to New York City’s and the lowering of campaign contribution limits.
Rebuilding after Superstorm Sandy was the last item on the Governor’s 2013 State of the State address.
He focused on the threat of future storms calling for alternative energy sources to reduce pollution, stronger building codes in coastal areas, and improvements to underground transportation networks. He also called for the creation of a state-wide volunteer network so New York could have a pool of skilled workers for future disasters.
to see an outline of the Governor's full agenda.