Power & Politics: What NY lawmakers did and didn't get done in 2019 legislative session

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ALBANY -

It has been a busy week for the New York state Legislature as it wrapped the 2019 session with plenty of last-minute work.

The session was set to end Wednesday, but lawmakers wanted to tackle more issues, including legalizing marijuana. On Wednesday, lawmakers couldn't agree on key details in legislation to allow recreational marijuana use for those 21 and older.

"I think that this is something that people are still talking about," says state Sen. Andrew Gounardes. "There are a lot of details to work out, it is not as simple as just saying, 'We are going to legalize marijuana.' I mean, we are creating a whole new industry from scratch, and that takes a lot of work, that takes a lot of thought, that takes a lot of planning and preparation."

Lawmakers did pass legislation to eliminate criminal penalties for public possession and use of marijuana. It would replace low-level criminal charges with civil tickets, and also allow people to get low-level marijuana convictions removed from their records.

Still, advocates say they will try again next year to legalize marijuana.

Also potentially on the agenda for next year is paid surrogacy. In the last few days, a bill to legalize paid surrogacy stalled. This means Michigan and New York are the only states that don't allow contracts in which a woman is compensated for carry the child of another individual or couple.

Lawmakers did pass a bill to reform New York's sexual harassment policy. Under new legislation sponsored by state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, the statute of limitations will be extended for sexual harassment complaints.

"We want people in their workplaces to feel safe," says Biaggi. "We have to set the example and so the legislation is one of those ways."

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has also touted the passing of what he calls the most sweeping, aggressive tenants protections in state history. The legislation safeguards affordable housing for millions of New Yorkers.

Other items included banning cat declawing, eliminating a religious exemption for vaccines and a ban on the Pink Tax, which will stop companies from charging different prices from similar products marketed to men and women -- such as razors, shaving cream and shampoo.

Gov. Cuomo strongly commended the state's work during the session, saying, "Massive accomplishment, using the moment for change, achieving fiscal responsibility and economic growth and making New York the social progress capital of the USA."

 

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