Wed January 9, 2013
Cuomo calls for tougher gun control laws, higher minimum wage
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo pushed for a tighter ban on assault weapons and elimination of high-capacity ammunition clips in his annual State of The State address Wednesday.
Cuomo is proposing to close loopholes on a state ban on assault weapons and ammunition clips that carry more than 10 bullets.
"We need a gun policy in this state that is reasonable, that is balanced, that is measured. We respect hunters and sportsmen. This is not taking away people's guns. I own a gun. I own Remington shotgun. I've hunted. I've shot. That's not what this is about. It is about ending the unnecessary risk of high-capacity assault rifles," Cuomo said.
Cuomo is also proposing that when a mental health professional determines a person is likely to cause serious harm to someone, the person's firearm license may be revoked and law enforcement could take the person's weapons. He also wants harsher penalties for illegal gun activity.
A deal in the works by state lawmakers could soon make New York one of the first states to pass gun control laws following the December 14 mass shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtorn, Connecticut.
New York's effort was hastened further by the Christmas Eve killings of two firefighters in Webster, near Rochester.
Cuomo is also proposing raising the minimum wage to $8.75 an hour from the current $7.25. The first-term democratic governor says New Yorkers at the low end of the income ladder should earn more, calling the current rate "unlivable."
"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," Cuomo said.
The increase is supported by powerful Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Manhattan democrat. Republicans who control the Senate prefer business tax breaks to spur the economy.
A person earning minimum wage in New York makes $14,616 a year. Cuomo notes the minimum wage in 19 states, including neighbors in Connecticut, Vermont, and Massachusetts, is higher than New York.
The governor pledged not to raise taxes in 2013, saying residents still face many economic challenges. He focused on the changing the business climate in the state, saying efforts have been made over the past two years to change "business as usual in New York."
"Gone is the obstructionist state bureaucratic structure, replaced with a new entrepreneurial government. Gone is the tax capital mentality, replaced with a property tax cap, Tier VI, and the lowest middle class tax rate in 58 years," Cuomo said.
But the Governor says more must be done to create jobs and to meet challenges faced by the state. Cuomo is proposing workers comp and unemployment reforms to reduce cots to business and increase benefits for workers.
Cuomo is proposing an expansion of gambling in New York beginning with three casinos upstate and none in New York City.
"The plan is to bring downstate New Yorkers to upstate," Cuomo said. "We want them going upstate and using this as a magnet to go upstate."
The state legislature is expected this year to consider final passage of an amendment to the state constitution that would allow up to seven Las Vegas-style casinos beyond Indian land. If approved by lawmakers, voters could make a final decision on the amendment in November.
A gaming commission would pick the best locations and revenues would be split 90 percent for education and 10 percent for property tax relief.
Cuomo stressed the need to fortify New York's power and telecommunication systems after Superstorm Sandy in his annual address. The November storm damaged or destroyed 305,000 housing units in New York and more than 265,000 businesses were disrupted in the state. More than 2 million customers lost power.
Cuomo said New York customers cannot afford to face catastrophic power losses every few years when powerful storms hit. He has named a series of commission to look at infrastructure issues and is seeking federal funding to upgrade systems. He would also eliminate the Long Island Power Authority, which he said failed during the storm.
The governor chided Congress for failed to act quickly to authorize federal relief funding for the damaging storm.
Cuomo is calling for passage of a Women's Equality Act that would include strengthening reproductive health rights.
"It's her body, it's her choice," Cuomo repeated three times.
Cuomo also said he wants to make possession of up to 15 ounces of marijuana seen in "open view'' to be punishable by only a violation.
You can read a copy of the speech here.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.