ALBANY – Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is starting his 10th year in office, and in his annual State of the State message Wednesday he is proposing to enact another broad array of ideas, from allowing paid gestational surrogacy to offering hundreds of new places where New Yorkers can legally drink alcohol.
Cuomo wants to ban single-use foam containers and foam packing peanuts. The idea comes as a new state ban on plastic bags is getting set to kick in statewide. Like the plastic bag law, the Styrofoam container ban – which applies to everything from restaurants and supermarkets to truck stops – would have exemptions, such as containers used to hold uncooked meat, fish or eggs.
New York regularly tightens laws pertaining to gun ownership, sales and possession. In this year’s bid, Cuomo wants to further restrict what have been called “ghost” guns that are untraceable; specifically, he would ban direct internet sales to consumers of major parts used to make a gun. He also wants to restrict gun licensing for residents who have been convicted of certain crimes in other states.
It’s been embraced by politician after politician in New York: high-speed rail. The idea has been dropped by politician after politician over the decades for a host of reasons, not the least of which include the enormous costs and the prime real estate that the most heavily used rail lines in New York carve a path through. Further, with upstate still facing stagnant or declining population in many areas, critics wonder how the idea could possibly be cost-effective. Cuomo is calling for a panel to study the idea. Cuomo also wants the state to build a big new transit complex at the site of the decaying Penn Station in midtown Manhattan.
Movies and booze
Cuomo will try, try, try again to get lawmakers to permit the sale of beer, wine and spirits in movie houses across the state. Currently, there are strict rules about food service that many movie theaters say they cannot meet in order to sell booze. The idea would seek to limit the number of loud and drunken moviegoers by keeping sales, for instance, limited to movies rated PG-13 and higher and restricting how many drinks can be purchased per stop at the concession stand. There are about 200 movie theaters in New York, whose industry is pressing hard for the new plan.
DeWitt Clinton might be smiling. Cuomo wants to spend $300 million over five years on a plan to “reimagine” the Erie Canal, which Clinton officially opened in 1825 (and which, as any elementary student knows in New York, quickly outlived its usefulness as a major transportation system). As past governors also have proposed, Cuomo plans to pump money into new projects along the canal to encourage real estate development, tourism and water recreation. The state budget won’t be directly paying for things; rather, the money would come from the off-budget State Power Authority.
Cuomo gave his first major shoutout to Buffalo – state dollarswise – in his 2012 State of the State, when he said the state would drive $1 billion in special funding for development projects in the area. The buildings went up, but the program was hit by what became known as the Buffalo Billion scandal over bid-rigging at what would go on to be the solar plant at RiverBend. His 2020 plan: a major development plan for Canalside’s vacant North Aud block; he wants new buildings, restaurants, retail that state officials say will help create an area of mixed uses, including residential units.
Cuomo’s 2020 policy plans also call for closing loopholes that he says do not adequately protect victims who are unable to legally consent to sex because of voluntary intoxication. He also will submit legislation to try to restrict the activities of sex offenders who use online social media and gaming platforms to prey on children.
The governor’s 2020 agenda will seek to limit the sale of all flavored nicotine vaping products, as well as vaping advertising that critics say try to target teenagers. The state health department would also specifically regulate any chemicals used in vaping products.
Cuomo also wants new penalties for retailers who sell untaxed cigarettes, obtained from other states, and increase fines and penalties for retailers who sell tobacco products to people under the age of 21.
After past efforts failed, Cuomo will try again to legalize paid gestational surrogacy, a move the Democratic governor says would help LGBTQ couples and couples with fertility problems. Paid surrogacy is permitted in nearly all states in some form or another.
But the effort most recently died last year amid concern by lawmakers over the possible exploitation of some women paid to carry babies to term for others. Cuomo insists his plan builds in protections to prevent such problems.
This year, Cuomo wants a law to require automatic recounts when statewide elections or ballot proposals see vote margins within 0.2% of all votes cast. Meanwhile, lawmakers are poised to once again press in the coming days to make voter registration automatic for hundreds of thousands of people each year who use state services such as motor vehicle or welfare offices.