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Capitol Bureau

Capitol Bureau correspondent Karen DeWitt reports on what is happening in Albany, and how the decisions made by lawmakers affect you. Karen reports for WXXI and New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.

She is also a regular contributor to New York Now, the statewide public television program about New York State government seen on WXXI-TV Sundays at 6:30 p.m.  

Unions and many Democrats in the state Legislature are pushing for an expansion of the state’s prevailing wage law. But they are finding that the change might have some unintended consequences. 

Karen DeWitt

Supporters of legalizing recreational marijuana plan to hold rallies each day at the State Capitol this week, urging Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers to include the measure in the state budget.

Kassandra Frederique with the Drug Policy Alliance said supporters worry that if the issue lingers until later in the session, its chances of passage will diminish.

“Kicking the can down the road more is not a good sign for us as community members,” Frederique said. “The urgency on what legalization can do for our communities is important.”

Karen DeWitt / WXXI News

Assemblyman Harry Bronson, a Democrat from Rochester, is the sponsor of a bill to extend prevailing wage rules to projects that draw from private and public government funds.

He was joined by around 200 construction workers who stood on the Capitol’s ornate million dollar staircase between the Senate and Assembly chambers. The workers say the change would add significantly to their pay.

“We’re going to fight like hell, between now and the end of next weekend, to make sure this is in the budget, ” Bronson said.

The new state budget, due April 1, will be first one decided by an all-Democratic state legislature in a decade, after Republicans ruled the Senate for most of the past century. And while the leadership of the Senate and Assembly have been newly reasserting their governing powers when it comes to the spending plan, there’s only so far that they can go in their disagreements with Governor Andrew Cuomo.  

With less than a week to go to the budget deadline, Governor Andrew Cuomo says talks are proceeding in “good faith” with the legislature, but he says many differences still remain. And he indicated that lingering resentments over the failed Amazon deal might be coloring the discussions. 

Gambling casino companies are pressing Governor Andrew Cuomo and the legislature to allow them to open gaming centers in New York City as part of the new state budget. There are a number of obstacles to overcome, but the proposal may seem tempting to lawmakers, who are strapped for cash this year.

The chance to include legalization of adult recreational marijuana in the state budget is fading, now that Governor Andrew Cuomo seems to be backing away from the proposal.

Matt Ryan, New York Now

A push to enact a statewide system of public campaign finance for political races appears to be floundering in New York. But advocates have not given up on a proposal that they say would change the culture of a state capitol where many lawmakers have grown dependent on donations from special interest groups.

With just a little over two weeks to go before the state budget is due, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s top budget officials say they have to revise their spending proposal, now that President Donald Trump has released a budget plan that they say could devastate New York’s health care system.

They’re pressuring the Legislature to rein in their spending proposals as well.

New York Attorney General Tish James said she’s reached an agreement with the state Legislature to amend the state’s double jeopardy laws to make it easier to go after people accused of crimes in New York, even if a president pardons them.

The measure is aimed at holding associates of President Donald Trump -- including his former campaign director Paul Manafort and former personal lawyer Michael Cohen -- accountable for crimes they may have committed within New York’s boundaries, even if the president pardons them of federal crimes that they have been convicted of.

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