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E-bikes to unions, the law changes proposed in Cuomo's state budget

Office of the Governor

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo released a $178 billion budget proposal this week alongside a host of laws he wants to pass — from allowing e-bikes to a ban on single-use Styrofoam containers.

The Democrat has made it a practice of his to propose multiple new laws with budgets when he submits them to lawmakers in January. A notable law passed as part of a budget was the $15 minimum wage law in 2016.

The governor has said he uses his budgets to rally attention and support for his top annual legislative priorities.

“I believe the budget is the opportunity, frankly, to make some tough decisions and work through tough issues that without the budget, can often languish,” Cuomo said in his Tuesday budget address.

The Legislature plans to start hearings on the budget next week. Cuomo’s policy ideas in his budget bills this year include:

E-BIKES: The governor proposes letting local governments allow motorized bicycles and scooters. He says his bill would include traffic and safety provisions — an issue that he cited last year as a concern.

EQUAL RIGHTS: Cuomo is proposing a tweak to a state constitution amendment protecting equal rights. The governor said he’s submitted legislation with the budget for an expanded state constitutional amendment that bans discrimination on the basis of sex, ethnicity, national origin, age, disability, sexual orientation and gender identity. Both chambers must approve a state constitutional amendment with a majority vote, and then the next session of the Legislature must do so as well. Then, the proposed amendment goes to voters. The New York State Constitution currently has a 1938 Equal Rights Amendment that prohibits discrimination based on race, color, creed or religion.

FARM LABOR: Cuomo also proposes expanding the state’s definition of “immediate family member” under a landmark labor law protecting farm workers that passed last year. Lobbyists for farmers said the bill failed to included aunts, uncles and cousins in the law’s family workers.

FOREIGN INFLUENCED CORPORATIONS: Cuomo wants to ban corporations from contributing to New York political campaigns if a single foreign entity controls 5% ownership. The ban would also apply to independent expenditures meant to influence elections.

FRACKING: The governor also wants to make permanent New York’s ban on high-volume hydraulic fracking, which is used to extract natural gas from tight rock. The state Department of Environmental Conservation prohibited the practice in 2015 due to public health concerns.

MARIJUANA: The governor is trying once again to legalize marijuana in New York. Sales to retail dispensaries will be taxed at 20% under the governor’s proposal, which would also tax the cultivation of cannabis at $1 per gram of dry weight cannabis flower and 25 cents per gram of dry weight cannabis trim.

NYC WATER: Cuomo has included a study of what it would take for Long Island to get its water from New York amid worries about hard-to-treat industrial contaminants.

PAID SURROGACY: Prospective parents in New York could enter into paid surrogacy contracts under a proposal that the governor wants to try to pass again in 2020. Gestational surrogacy allows people to conceive a child who would be carried by a surrogate. New York is one of a few states that explicitly bans paid surrogacy contracts. Cuomo says his bill would ensure legal protections for “all parties involved in the process.”

PRISONS: The governor wants the ability to close state prisons on a faster timeline: if he gives at least a 90-day notice to legislative leaders. Current law requires the head of New York's prison agency to give a year notice before closing a correctional facility. If approved, the measure would be effective from April 2020 through March 2021.

SICK LEAVE: Cuomo has proposed requiring all employers to provide sick leave. His plan calls for large employers with at least 100 workers to provide seven days of paid leave, while smaller businesses with more than five employees would provide five days. Businesses with fewer than five employees would offer five days of unpaid leave.

SINGLE-USE STYROFOAM: Cuomo wants to join a small number of states that prohibit the distribution and use of single-use food containers and packaging materials made from expanded polystyrene, also known as Styrofoam. He says a ban effective 2022 would apply to restaurants, caterers, food trucks, retail food stores, delis and grocery stores who use Styrofoam containers for prepared foods or beverages.

STATE SEAL: The governor says the state should add “E Pluribus Unum” — which means out of many one — to its arms of the state and its state seal. Cuomo says he wants to remind the nation that “without unity we are nothing.”

TAX RETURNS: The governor proposes requiring all elected state officials and commissioners with government salaries over $100,000 to release their tax returns.

UNIONS: Cuomo is proposing safeguards for public sector unions by requiring employers to provide employee organizations access to new employee orientations.

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