ALBANY, N.Y. — New York Governor Andrew Cuomo gave his 2021 State of the State address in Albany Monday.
The governor gave an overview of items that he will address in more detail over the next several days.
The agenda for 2021 is Reimagine | Rebuild | Renew, with the main focus being on defeating COVID-19 and jumpstarting New York's economy, which took a financial hit when the pandemic hit early last year.
The governor says the state will put forth efforts to ensure social and racial justice, reimagine health care and housing systems; finding new sources of revenue through the legalization of adult-use cannabis and online sports betting.
"We must deal with our short-term economic crisis, a record $15 billion State deficit," said Cuomo.
State Republican Chairman Nick Langworthy shot down the address by the governor.
"Sports betting and the legalization of marijuana that's not going to solve this crisis, New York doesn't have a revenue problem, we have a tax and spend problem," Langworthy said.
In an effort to address shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) and medical supplies for our healthcare system, Cuomo is proposing New York pass the Medical Supplies Act to prioritize buying American-made PPE and medical supplies.
As part of his address, Cuomo proposed legislation to expand and improve access to telehealth for all residents of New York State. The state is partnering with the Reimagine New York Commission and will enact reform to help New York residents take advantage of telehealth tools.
In a preview to his State of the State address, Cuomo said, "While New York State has been on the cutting edge of promoting telehealth for its residents, the adoption of telehealth by both patients and providers has been slow."
"COVID-19 has changed not only the way we live, but the way healthcare providers support their patients, especially in regard to mental health. New Yorkers have adapted throughout 2020, but it is time to push telehealth to the next level in New York State and fully integrate it into our existing healthcare system. These proposals will better allocate our healthcare and technological resources for the 21st century."
Among other items highlighted in the governor's speech:
The governor is proposing the creation of a new Office of Cannabis Management to oversee a new adult-use cannabis program. He says legalizing marijuana will create more than 60,000 new jobs and generate more than $300 million in tax revenue.
The Drug Policy Alliance NYS Director Melissa Moore released the following statement:
“By including marijuana reform in today's State of the State address, Gov. Cuomo has signaled that this is a top priority in this year's legislative session. When it comes to responsibly regulating marijuana, it's critical that we don't just get this done, but we get it right. Equity must be the guiding force, and we will continue to work with the Governor's administration and legislative leaders to ensure any new law comprehensively addresses the harms to communities wrought by the war on drugs through dedicated community reinvestment. New Yorkers are more ready than ever to create a new paradigm for marijuana reform. Let's make 2021 the year for marijuana justice.”
The state will also look to seek proposals to select one or more providers to offer mobile sports wagering in New York.
"We want to do sports betting the way the state runs the lottery," Cuomo told reporters last week, noting that the lottery allows the state to keep the profits.
Under the proposal, the New York State Gaming Commission would issue a license to a sports operator or platform to offer mobile sports betting.
Any company licensed to operate mobile wagering apps in the state would also be required to include "safeguards" to protect New Yorkers against abuses and addiction.
The proposal would give licensed nurses and nursing candidates priority admission to SUNY and CUNY colleges to fulfill baccalaureate credentials. The legislation, if passed, would begin in fall of 2021.
Currently, based on a law passed in 2017, nurses who have completed an associate degree in New York State must get a baccalaureate degree in nursing within 10 years to keep practicing.
"Health care workers showed up every day to help keep us safe," Cuomo said. "They worked tirelessly to save thousands of lives, all while putting their own lives at risk. When I asked them to step up, they did so blindly. They knew the risks and they still came to work every day to protect the rest of us. Many put their lives on hold to help. They had our back, now we must have theirs."
Also slated for 2021, expanding access to voting and improving procedures by speeding up vote counting, and adding additional time for early voting.
The governor also proposed more protections for residential and commercial tenants.
"COVID-19 has produced enormous hardship for homeowners and commercial and residential tenants as we implement restrictions necessary to protect the public health, and we owe them safety from eviction until they are able to get back on their feet," Governor Cuomo said in a release on January 8.
"That's why we're proposing new legislation to continue to protect small businesses and commercial tenants and further extend existing relief for residents that I have provided by Executive Order. The pandemic shouldn't get in the way of our ability to provide space for our businesses and roofs over our heads, and this assistance will foster a faster and stronger recovery when we finish defeating COVID."