Medical marijuana, NYC speed limits and more headed to Cuomo’s desk
The New York State Legislature wrapped up its final session before this fall’s elections on Friday, affirming some of the year’s most drawn-out battles while passing on some of the most controversial.
A full slate of bills now go on to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s desk for his signature.
“The last few weeks were really a banner period of accomplishment,” Cuomo said on WCNY’s Capitol Pressroom radio show.
“We got done, really, amazing work that will make this state a better state. I couldn’t be any happier,” he added.
Drug treatment statewide
Most notably, the state Senate passed Sen. Diane Savino’s bill to authorize a medical marijuana pilot program for the first time. The Assembly had already passed some version of the Compassionate Care Act at least five times in seven years.
Of the 22 states currently with medical marijuana programs, it is one of the strictest. The state will regulate five growers and 20 dispensaries that will only distribute non-smokable delivery systems to those with prescriptions from state-certified doctors to treat a limited number of illnesses.
The state will also roll out a series of anti-heroin laws that increase penalties for sale of the drug while increasing treatment options for those recovering from substance abuse.
New York City speed limits
Both houses of the Legislature overwhelmingly voted to lower New York City’s speed limit to 25 mph from 30 mph. Any future changes to speed limits are greater than 5 mph will require notification to local community boards.
Mayor Bill de Blasio hailed the vote as key to his administration’s plan to drive down and eliminate pedestrian deaths citywide.
“This is a huge step forward as we work to save lives and make our streets safer,” de Blasio said in a statement.”
Teacher evaluations vs. Common Core
Lawmakers also agreed on a bill making it so evaluations for both teachers and principals this year and the next will not be based on Common Core testing.
The temporary two-year delay mimics a measure Albany granted to students that won’t record Common Core tests results on their records this year and opens the door to another year of talks about teacher reviews.
Pets, pachyderms and pyrotechnics
Both the state Senate and Assembly also pushed a law towards Cuomo’s desk that effectively bans any tattooing or piercing of pet animals unless its for medical or identification purposes. Violators face up to $1,000 in fines and one year in jail.
Illegal ivory and rhino horns might also soon be banned with the governor’s signature. The law would create stronger penalties for anyone caught in the illegal trade and makes few exceptions, including for scientific purposes and certain musical instruments.
For the third time, lawmakers passed a bill that would make some small fireworks — including sparklers — legal outside of New York City for brief windows of time, including the Fourth of July holiday.
Cuomo has previously twice vetoed similar bills.
Despite the governor’s satisfaction with the laws that made it out of chambers before the September primary, legislators were left with a growing list of priorities for the next session, including:
• New York City’s right to determine its own minimum wage;
• the Gender Non-Discrimination Act, a transgender rights bill to outlaw discrimination based on gender identity or expression failed to go to a Senate floor vote, despite strong support in the Assembly;
• a ban on gay conversion therapy for minors was also stopped from going to a vote in the politically split Senate;
• the full Women’s Equality Act, including provisions on the state’s abortion law;
• long-proposed campaign finance reform, including public financing, that the two bodies have been unable to reconcile;
• the Dream Act to grant children of undocumented residents financial aid for college, which made it to a Senate floor vote earlier this year but failed.
Lawmakers aren’t scheduled to reconvene again until January 2015.
Follow Chester Jesus Soria on Twitter @chestersoria