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Cuomo's State of the State Calls For Tougher Gun Laws, Minimum Wage Increase, Casinos

12:24 AM, Jan 10, 2013   |    comments
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Video: Business Community Reacts to State of the State

Governor Andrew Cuomo; AP Photo

By Jon Campbell, Albany Bureau

ALBANY -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday used his third State of the State address to lay out plans to bolster New York's gun laws, increase the minimum wage and bring Las Vegas-style casinos upstate.

Cuomo's 80-minute address shed light on a 2013 agenda focused on marketing the upstate economy and making New York a "progressive leader," in part by instituting stricter gun laws and chipping away at issues like gender inequality.

"This is New York, the progressive capital," Cuomo said to a crowd filled primarily with lawmakers, lobbyists and local officials. "You show them how we lead. We can do it."

Cuomo's speech included a mix of measures new and old, including several he was unable to shepherd through the Legislature during his first two years in office.

The state's minimum wage, he said, should be increased to $8.75 an hour from the current $7.25, the federal rate.

WEB EXTRA: Click here to read Governor Cuomo's 2013 State of the State address.

The penalty for possessing fewer than 15 grams of marijuana would be dropped from a misdemeanor to a violation under Cuomo's plan. The idea comes as a response to New York City's stop-and-frisk policy, which results in marijuana arrests that unfairly targets young minorities, Cuomo said.

Both measures will likely face continued resistance from Republicans in the state Senate, who will share control of the chamber with the breakaway Independent Democratic Conference this year.

Cuomo's minimum-wage proposal was met with approval from various labor leaders, though some had been advocating for tying future increases to the rate of inflation.

"This year, Albany leaders can create a legacy of economic fairness for New York's low-wage workers," Stuart Appelbaum, president of the state Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union said in a statement. "Governor Cuomo's championing of a minimum wage increase of $8.75 in his State of the State speech is the first big step."

Cuomo's attempt to boost the slumping upstate economy includes what he called "phase one" of a plan to legalize a limited number of privately owned casinos. Under Cuomo's proposal, up to three casinos would be allowed upstate with none in New York City, with the idea of attracting downstate visitors north. Last year, lawmakers passed a constitutional amendment that would allow for seven full-fledged casinos statewide; the measure must be passed again this year and approved by voters in November to take effect.

Other proposals unveiled by Cuomo include a 10-pack of measures focused on women's issues, including state bills requiring women to be paid the same as men when performing equal work, putting abortion rights into law and enacting tougher penalties for sexual harassment in the workplace.

Cuomo also chastised Congress for moving too slowly on approving federal aid for New York and other states hit hard by Superstorm Sandy. It has been a common refrain for the governor; Congress' ended its previous session earlier this month without the House of Representatives acting on a full $60.4 billion package of Sandy aid.

"Do not play politics with the state of New York," Cuomo said. "Do not bring your Washington political gridlock to New York."

He continued: "Remember New York because New York will not forget. I promise you."

Cuomo devoted a significant portion of his speech to gun-control measures, pointing to recent shootings in Newtown, Conn., and Webster, Monroe County. He called on state lawmakers to "reject the extremists" and "save lives" by passing "sensible" gun reforms.

He called for the "strongest assault-weapons ban in the nation" and for a complete ban on high-capacity magazines, regardless of when they were manufactured. Negotiations with lawmakers on gun laws continued Wednesday, though no agreements had been announced.

"It's simple -- no one hunts with an assault rifle," Cuomo said. "No one needs 10 bullets to kill a deer."

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