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Capitol Watch: Lawmakers return with pot, rent on the agenda

April 27, 2019
FILE- In this March 29, 2019 photo, samples of THC laced products are on display as a bartender prepares drinks at the Spleef NYC canna-cocktail party in New York. Lawmakers are returning to Albany to begin the final two months of the legislative session, and bills to legalize recreational marijuana will top of the agenda. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — In New York state government news, lawmakers are returning to Albany to begin the final two months of the legislative session, and bills to legalize recreational marijuana will top the agenda.

Meanwhile, a Senate investigations committee is making it easier for the public to suggest topics for future scrutiny.

A look at stories making news:

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POT TOPS AGENDA

Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo called on lawmakers to include a legalization provision in the recently passed state budget, but disagreements over the many details of the proposal forced him to pull it out.

While many lawmakers say they support legalization in concept, resolving the minutiae before lawmakers adjourn in late June will be a formidable challenge. Aside from figuring out specific tax rates and regulations lawmakers are also considering proposals to address the legacy of the war on drugs, by expunging low-level marijuana convictions, for instance, or by requiring that a percentage of dispensary licenses go to minority owned businesses.

Other top issues include the extension of New York City’s rent regulations, which are set to expire.

With Democrats now in charge of both the Senate and Assembly, they’re likely to push to strengthen the rules governing rental increases in the city — and possibly create some type of new regulation for other cities in the state as well.

A final priority for many Democrats is legislation that would rescind an old state law that prohibits farmworkers from unionizing to demand better wages or conditions.

Other bills could make news even if they never get a vote. They include legislation to ban the sale of products made with farmed fur and another that would authorize terminally ill people to obtain life-ending medication if two physicians consent.

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TIP LINE

The Senate Committee on Investigations and Government Operations has set up an email address to receive tips from the public. The tips could relate to government waste, corruption or any other subject fit for the committee’s scrutiny.

The email — investigations@nysenate.gov — was announced last week by Sen. James Skoufis, a Hudson Valley Democrat who leads the committee.

“Our tip line establishes a direct line of communication between the investigations committee and the public,” Skoufis said. “The point of having this tip line is to ensure we are hearing right from the people of New York in a private way that can provide us insight into improprieties and inefficiencies.”

The committee is currently looking into the conduct of pharmaceutical companies, local code enforcement and the oversight of local economic development agencies and other public authorities.

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FIRST UP

Don’t expect major action on marijuana this week as lawmakers ease back into work following a two-week post-budget break. Instead, the state Senate is planning to take up a series of environmental bills.

They include a proposed state constitutional amendment that, if approved by voters via referendum, would create a state right to clean air, water and a healthy environment.

Another bill would prohibit the sale of toys that contain various chemicals considered toxic, including asbestos and various flame retardants. The ban would go into effect in 2023.

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UPCOMING

Tuesday: The state Senate holds a hearing on ending state investments in fossil fuel companies in Albany.

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