Capitol Notes

Lawmaker questions state Senate and Cuomo’s commitment to marijuana legalization in 2020

The Assembly sponsor of legislation that would legalize adult-use of cannabis is not confident the measure will be approved in the final six weeks of the scheduled legislative session.

Speaking Wednesday on The Capitol Pressroom, Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes said she was “not sure whether or not we have partners on the second floor and or in the senate in terms of moving the bill forward this year.”

“I personally would like to see it move forward. I can’t commit that it will (get to the floor in the Assembly),” the Buffalo Democrat added.

Three weeks ago the issue was dropped from the final budget deal, which Peoples-Stokes laid at the feet of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, despite having “good conversations” with his office on the use of marijuana revenues, one of the few outstanding issues with legalization.

“I just think the governor didn’t want it to be there right then,” she said of legalization.

Peoples-Stokes added that marijuana legalization was also not prioritized during the budget process as the result of the novel coronavirus outbreak, which she said was understandable.

Cancelling Rent

While there has been a growing chorus of Democratic state lawmakers urging the governor to suspend rent payments for individuals and businesses that have had their income diminished as the result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Peoples-Stokes is “not so sure that it’s necessary to do that” in light of the moratorium on evictions put in place by an executive order from Cuomo.

“I think that it does call for additional conversation because the last thing you want is for us to be healthy as a people, healthy as a state, and then the landlord to come along and say, ‘you got to go,’ because you didn’t pay your rent for the last six months,” she said. “That should not happen, and so whatever we need to do to fix that, we should work on figuring that out.”

Future Cuts

While the state budget empowered the Cuomo administration to make mid-year spending cuts if state revenues aren’t  as high as projected, Peoples-Stokes indicated that the Legislature might assert its own prerogative to make cuts if they’re unhappy with the choices made by the state Division of Budget.

“I know that there are a lot of my colleagues who feel very strongly about education funding and there are also people who feel very strongly about health care funding, as we all should, and so I think it really depends on what the division of budget lays out,” Peoples-Stokes said. If they lay out something that says we have to cut education by 50 percent, that’s not going to go over well.”

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