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State Legislature Likely To Dodge High Profile Issues

Albany, N.Y. - With attention turning to the fall elections, New York lawmakers may end their session without voting on a number of high profile issues.

The Senate and Assembly begin their final two weeks of work today --  with no resolution in site on a minimum wage increase, medical marijuana, or public campaign financing.

Legislators and leaders including Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo face re-election this fall. Campaign season got an early start  when Cuomo promised to help defeat Republicans and, possibly, the  renegade Democrats who allied with them to control the state Senate. 

As that heats up, Senators have correspondingly less motivation to hand the governor a victory on his agenda.

Some of the issues that may be left unresolved as New York lawmakers work to end their session this month:

  • Minimum wage increase: Gov. Andrew Cuomo signaled his support for raising the wage to $10.10 and letting New York City and other communities boost it even further. But opponents say a hike could raise prices and decrease employment.
  • Medical marijuana: In January, Cuomo announced a pilot program to allow 20 hospitals statewide to prescribe medical marijuana to qualified patients. In the Legislature, the Compassionate Care Act would allow patients with one of 20 debilitating diseases to be administered the drug. Another measure prohibits smoking marijuana entirely, but it could be administered through edibles, oils and vaporizers.
  • Heroin: Lawmakers have introduced more than 30 bills to combat the rise of heroin use in New York. They target prevention, increased criminal penalties and increased access to the opioid antidote naloxone. A bill that would provide a general prescription of naloxone to pharmacies has passed both houses and is awaiting Cuomo's signature. 
  • Campaign finance: Lawmakers authorized a pilot program to extend public campaign financing to state comptroller candidates this year, but supporters want a broader system that applies to all statewide offices and even legislators. Conservatives, who say campaigns would be a bad use of public money, have blocked that proposal so far this year.
  • Education tax credit: Would give a tax credit for charitable donations made for educational purposes. The legislation would be worth up to $300 million a year, with half going to public school programs and half going to scholarships for students who attend private schools. 
  • "Zombie" houses: Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and a number of mayors want lawmakers to require mortgage lenders to maintain houses that have been abandoned through foreclosure.
  • Women's equality agenda: The 10-point agenda covers topics like reproductive rights, pay equity, sexual harassment, human trafficking and tougher order-of-protection laws.
  • Dream Act: Would extend state financial aid to students in the country illegally. It has repeatedly passed the Assembly but failed this year in the Senate.
 

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