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Cuomo To Outline Gun Restrictions and Post-Sandy Vision in Annual Albany Address

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (Courtesy of Gov. Cuomo's Office)

Governor Andrew Cuomo will lay out his agenda for his third year in office this week when he delivers his State of the State address on Wednesday. More gun restrictions and the governor’s vision for post-Sandy New York are likely to top his updated his priority list.

Gov. Cuomo has indicated that he wants to tighten the state’s existing assault weapons ban to restrict more gun models, types of ammunition, or both. Last month, he described the state's existing ban as having “more holes than Swiss cheese” in an interview on WGDJ-AM radio. Still, he acknowledged “there’s a big difference of opinion on these issues” in Albany.

In the state Senate, where gun control bills have historically died, it could be an issue that divides the Republican and Democratic co-leaders.

Over the weekend, Sen. Jeff Klein, who leads the breakaway Democrats that formed a power-sharing agreement with Republicans, called for “one of the toughest gun laws in the nation.” “We have to do everything possible to ban assault weapons in New York,” Klein said.

But Klein's Senate co-leader, Republican Dean Skelos, had a different focus in a package of gun proposals he laid out on Sunday. He outlined tougher penalties for possessing and selling illegal guns, but he did not call for expanding the types of guns that would be illegal in the state.

Governor Cuomo's is also expected to focus on post-Sandy rebuilding in his speech, following up on his ambitious calls to respond to climate change in the storm’s wake. His proposals will draw on his post-storm commission on infrastructure. Its recommendations have not been made public, but draft proposals reportedly include constructing artificial islands in New York harbor for flood protection.

Cuomo is not expected to address fracking, the controversial natural gas drilling technique, even as he faces a deadline next month to authorize or ban the practice. The governor must decide by February 27 whether to extend a moratorium or to finalize draft rules to regulate the practice. A comprehensive health review is ongoing, state environmental regulators say, but a draft review concluded last year that fracking could be done safely with proper precautions, according to a copy obtained by New York Public Radio last week. A spokeswoman for the state environmental agency called that year-old report outdated.

On other issues, Gov. Cuomo will likely stick to the so-called "litmus test" he laid out in December for Albany lawmakers. That ten-point agenda includes hiking the minimum wage, affirming abortion rights under state law – and expanding casino gambling. Cuomo announced that policy initiative in last year’s state of the state. Lawmakers approved a constitutional amendment for up to seven new casinos, but it needs to pass the legislature again, and then the question goes to New York voters. 

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