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Capitol Watch: Details could delay vote on legal pot

May 11, 2019

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — In New York state government news, disagreements over the details of proposals to legalize recreational marijuana for adults could prevent a vote on the measure this year.

Meanwhile, lawmakers are gearing up for a major hearing on climate change as they prepare legislation designed to wean the state off fossil fuels.

Here’s a look at what’s coming up:

CRACKS IN POT?

Many supporters say they’re still optimistic lawmakers and Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo can work out a deal to legalize recreational marijuana this year. But time is beginning to run out.

Cuomo initially wanted a provision legalizing cannabis to be included in the state budget passed April 1. He withdrew it after it became obvious lawmakers couldn’t resolve thorny questions about the details of the legislation.

Now, those same devilish details could prevent a vote before lawmakers wrap up their session next month.

“The time for squabbling over details is over,” said Kassandra Frederique, New York state director for the Drug Policy Alliance. “We need action from the Democratic majority. Marijuana legalization needs to pass during this legislative session. Period.”

One big question is whether legalization will be paired with a proposal to expunge the criminal records of people arrested in the past for pot possession. Many lawmakers, including Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, D-Bronx, say it’s essential such a measure be included as a way to address decades of racial and economic disparities in the enforcement of marijuana laws.

Lawmakers in Albany point to the experience in New Jersey, where a vote on legislation to legalize marijuana and expunge old pot convictions was put off earlier this year.

Sen. Liz Krueger, D-Manhattan, told Gothamist this week that passage of a legalization bill would require Cuomo to make the issue a priority in end-of-session negotiations with lawmakers.

Cuomo said Friday that he interprets such comments “as legislative code for ‘we don’t have the votes.’”

“That is obviously troublesome,” Cuomo told reporters at an unrelated event Friday. “I would urge the senators to pass it. I urge the Assembly to pass it.”

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CLIMATE CHANGE

The Assembly’s Environmental Conservation Committee will meet Friday for what’s likely to be a long hearing on climate change.

The hearing comes as lawmakers prepare to debate and vote on the Climate and Community Protection Act, which aims for a 100% reduction in man-made carbon emissions in the state by 2050.

The bill would also set aside funding for clean-energy jobs and workforce training, as well as investments in communities grappling with rising sea levels, floods or other effects of extreme weather.

“It’s not going to be easy, but it’s absolutely necessary,” Assemblyman Steve Englebright, D-Long Island and the chairman of the committee, said of the bill’s prospect of passing. “It’s the future of our state.”

Cuomo has set a goal of generating 100% of the state’s energy from renewable sources by 2040.

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UPCOMING

Thursday: Senate Committee on Housing, Construction and Community Development holds hearing on rent regulation, Brooklyn.

May 24: Lawmakers hold their second hearing focused on sexual harassment in the workplace, Albany.

May 28: Joint Senate-Assembly hearing on universal health care proposals, Albany.

June 4: Joint hearing on suicide and suicide prevention, Albany.

June 19: Scheduled end of 2019 session.

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