On January 15th at 2 pm, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo will give his State of the State address, as well as give his executive budget for the next year. So far, he has announced a few of the measures touched on, including a plastic bag ban and an expansion of NYC's speed camera program.
"While the federal government is taking our environmental progress backwards and selling out our communities to polluters and oil companies, in New York we are moving forward with the nation's strongest environmental policies and doing everything in our power to protect our natural resources for future generations," Governor Cuomo said.
According to the New York Plastic Bag Task Force, the state goes through 23 billion single-use bags per year, which don't biodegrade as paper bags do. These bags pile up in landfills and oceans and don't decompose, meaning that the problem only grows worse over time. Cuomo promised to work with low- and medium-income communities to reduce the ban's impact by providing reusable bags and allowing exemptions to the ban in some cases.
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In addition to reducing plastic bag waste, Cuomo intends to expand New York's Bottle Bill to include most non-alcoholic beverage bottles, including sports drinks, energy drinks, coffee and tea. This allows diligent New Yorkers to recycle many more plastic bottles for their five cent deposit.
"Promoting recycling, reducing waste, and helping end the blight of plastic bags littering our environment are top priorities," said Department of Environment Conservation commissioner Basil Seggos. "Proposals to ban plastic bags and expand the bottle bill will bolster New York's ongoing efforts to improve recycling markets and reduce contamination in the waste stream.
State of the State: Finally Democrat
Cuomo originally tried to pass his plastic bag ban in April, but was stymied by the then-Republican State Senate. The other proposal he announced ahead of his State of the State speech had a similar history.
New York City had installed speed cameras in 140 school zones as early as 2013, intended to discourage reckless driving in areas around children. By the end of the 2018 legislative session, however, the Republican-controlled Senate had not voted to extend the program.
"There is indisputable evidence that speed cameras save lives, and as public servants we must use every available tool to protect our children," Cuomo said. "I declared a State of Emergency before the start of the school year to temporarily keep the cameras operating."
Cuomo's proposed bill would not only extend the program but would expand it to represent 150 more school zones, topping off at 290 in total.
"With this new proposal we will not only reinstate the program the way it should have been don in the first place - we will also expand the number of cameras to protect more children and prevent needless tragedies and heartbreak," Cuomo stated.
On the table: MTA takeover
Robert Mujica, Governor Cuomo's Director of the Budget, released a statement on Sunday expressing the state executive's intention to assume control over the entirety of the MTA, citing bureaucratic inefficiencies in its administration.
"No other Governor or Mayor has ever been willing to accept responsibility," Mujica writes. "History shows most work to deny connection with the MTA altogether. The Governor will step up, even if not politically in his best interest."
Elsewhere in Mujica's statement, he says the time for "reports" is at an end, and that now is the time for action, and calls for the state legislature to pass a congestion pricing bill that Cuomo has advocated for.
"The issue of control of the MTA has grown tiresome," Mujica writes. "Despite all the reporting, the facts are still not understood. Political debating seems to have little tolerance for policy details."
Cuomo has not made any official announcement on the subject, but an announcement of a coup against the MTA board of directors may be forthcoming tomorrow.